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This section of SustainabiliTank.info – REAL WORLD’S NEWS – will be carrying short notes with information not based on the daily press of the United States.

We will not attempt here to write lengthy articles, neither will we editorialize on why the information did not see light in the US.

If readers find other material relevant to sustainable development that was not published, please forward it to us at: Submissions@SustainabiliTank.info


 
Real World’s News:

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 23rd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Environment

2016 Elections, Climate Change, Climate Desk, Science, Top Stories
Attention GOP Presidential Candidates: Winter Does Not Disprove Global Warming -
Weather is not climate.

By Jeremy Schulman of Mother Jones
| Mon Jan. 26, 2015 1:24 PM EST

Update, 1/21/2016: With an epic blizzard expected to bury Washington, DC, this weekend, and an epic caucus night quickly approaching in Iowa, I decided to revisit this post. It remains true that winter storms and cold weather are in no way inconsistent with global warming. But I can no longer stand by my assertion that Donald Trump is “probably not going to run for president.” As Rick Perry would say: Oops.

Snow is falling across the Northeast, and millions of people are preparing for a massive blizzard. Due to the extreme winter conditions, my colleague at Climate Desk has issued the following advisory:

Tim McDonnell Verified account
?@timmcdonnell

PSA: Big snowstorm ? (IS NOT) proof global warming is a hoax.

It may seem obvious to you that the existence of extreme winter weather doesn’t negate the scientific fact that humans are warming the planet. But that’s probably because you aren’t a climate change denier who’s contemplating a run for the GOP presidential nomination.

Last year, for example, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) weighed in on the issue. “It is really freezing in DC,” Cruz said during a speech on energy policy, according to Talking Points Memo. “I have to admit I was surprised. Al Gore told us this wouldn’t happen!” Cruz said the same thing a month earlier, according to Slate: “It’s cold!…Al Gore told me this wouldn’t happen.”

And former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on his Fox News show, negated global warming as well after a major blizzard back in December 20, 2009.

Which brings us to a couple of Republicans who are probably not going to run for president but who have nevertheless generated headlines recently by suggesting they might. Here’s Donald Trump, during a cold snap last year:

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump

This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps,and our GW scientists are stuck in ice
2 January 2014

And then there is a Facebook post of January 12, 2012, from former Gov. Sarah Palin, citing extremely cold winter temperatures in her home state of Alaska.

Palin Facebook

If you’re a regular Climate affectionado, you already know why all this is wrong. You understand the difference between individual weather events and long-term climate trends. You probably even know that according to the National Climate Assessment, winter precipitation is expected to increase in the northeastern United States as a result of climate change. But if you’re a Republican who wants to be president, please pay close attention to the following video:

to get his – lease look at –  www.motherjones.com/environment/2…

also, if you want updates on the effects of the blizzard - CNN.com –  BreakingNews at mail.cnn.com

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 21st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


ISIS Is Not the Main Problem in the Middle East

by Jonathan Spyer
PJ Media and the Middle East Forum
January 19, 2016
 www.meforum.org/5801/isis-is-not-…

On a recent reporting trip to Iraq and northern Syria, two things were made apparent to me — one of them relatively encouraging, the other far less so. The encouraging news is that ISIS is currently in a state of retreat. Not headlong rout, but contraction.

The bad news? Our single-minded focus on ISIS as if it were the main or sole source of regional dysfunction is the result of faulty analysis, which in turn is producing flawed policy.

Regarding the first issue, 2015 was not a particularly good year for ISIS. In the course of it, the jihadis lost Kobani and then a large area to its east, bringing the Syrian Kurdish fighters of the YPG and their allies to within 30 km of the Caliphate’s “capital” in Raqqa city.

In late December, the jihadis lost the last bridge over the Euphrates that they controlled, at the Tishreen Dam. This matters because it isolates Raqqa, making it difficult for the Islamic State to rush reinforcements from Aleppo province to the city in the event of an attack. Similarly, the Kurdish YPG advanced south of the town of al-Hawl to Raqqa’s east.

In Iraq, the Iraqi Shia militias and government forces have now recaptured Ramadi city (lost earlier in 2015) following the expulsion of ISIS from Tikrit and Baiji. The Kurdish Pesh Merga, meanwhile, have revenged the humiliation they suffered at the hands of ISIS in the summer of 2014. The Kurds have now driven the jihadis back across the plain between Erbil and Mosul, bringing them to the banks of the Tigris river. They have also liberated the town of Sinjar.

The city of Mosul nestles on the western side of the river. It remains ISIS’s most substantial conquest. Its recapture does not appear immediately imminent, yet the general trend has been clear. The main slogan of ISIS is “Baqiya wa’tatamaddad,” “Remaining and Expanding.” At the present time, however, the Islamic State may be said to be remaining, but retreating.

This situation is reflected in the confidence of the fighters facing ISIS along the long front line. In interviews as I traversed the lines, I heard the same details again and again regarding changing ISIS tactics, all clearly designed to preserve manpower.

This stalling of the Islamic State is the background to its turn towards international terror, which was also a notable element of the latter half of 2015. The downing of the Russian airliner in October, the events in Paris in November, and the series of suicide bombings in Turkey since July attest to a need that the Islamic State has for achievement and for action. They need to keep the flow of recruits coming and to maintain the image of victory essential to it.

Regarding the second issue: seen from close up, the Islamic State is very obviously only a part, and not necessarily the main part, of a much larger problem. When talking both with those fighting with ISIS and with those who sympathize with it in the region, this observation stands out as a stark difference in perception between the Middle Eastern view of ISIS and the view of it presented in Western media. The latter tends to present ISIS as a strange and unique development, a dreadfully evil organization of unclear origins, which is the natural enemy of all mainstream forces in the Middle East.

ISIS has the same ideological roots and similar practices as other Salafi jihadi groups in Syria.

From closer up, the situation looks rather different.

ISIS has the same ideological roots and similar practices as other Salafi jihadi organizations active in the Syrian arena. ISIS treats non-Muslims brutally in the areas it controls, and adheres to a rigid and fanatical ideology based on a literalist interpretation and application of religious texts. But this description also applies to Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria.

Nusra opposes ISIS, and is part of a rebel alliance supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey. In March 2015, when Nusra captured Idleb City in northern Syria, the city’s 150 Christian families were forced to flee to Turkey. Nusra has also forcibly converted a small Druze community in Idleb. The alliance Nusra was a part of also included Muslim Brotherhood-oriented groups, such as the Faylaq al-Sham militia, which apparently had no problem operating alongside the jihadis.

ISIS is not a unique organization; rather, it exists at one of the most extreme points along a continuum of movements committed to Sunni political Islam.

Meanwhile, the inchoate mass of Sunni Islamist groups — of which ISIS constitutes a single component — is engaged in a region-wide struggle with a much more centralized bloc of states and movements organized around the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is committed to a Shia version of political Islam.

The Middle East — in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and to a lesser extent Lebanon, all along the sectarian faultline of the region — is witnessing a clash between rival models of political Islam, of which ISIS is but a single manifestation.

The local players find sponsorship and support from powerful regional states, themselves committed to various different versions of political Islam: Iran for the Shias; Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Muslim Brotherhood-supporting Qatar for the Sunnis.

The long awakening of political Islam as the dominant form of popular politics in the Middle East started decades ago. But the eclipse of the political order in the region, and of the nationalist dictatorships in Iraq, Syria, Egypt (temporarily), Tunisia, and Yemen in recent years, has brought it to a new level of intensity.

States, indifferent to any norms and rules, using terror and subversion to advance their interests, jihadi armed groups, and the refugee crises and disorder that result from all this are the practical manifestations of it.

This, and not the fate of a single, fairly ramshackle jihadi entity in the badlands of eastern Syria and western Iraq, is the matter at hand in the Middle East.

—————————-

Jonathan Spyer is director of the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 17th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Investing Guide – CNNMONEY

Is it time to bail out the U.S. oil industry?

by Matt Egan @mattmegan5 January 14, 2016: 1:37 PM ET

America’s once-booming oil industry is suddenly in deep financial trouble.

The epic crash in oil prices has wiped out tens of thousands of jobs, caused dozens of bankruptcies and spooked global financial markets.

The fallout is already being felt in oil-rich states like Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota, where home foreclosure rates are spiking and economic growth is slowing.

Now there are calls in at least some corners for the federal government to come to the rescue.

—————-

“It is time to send out an S.O.S., before it’s too late,” John Kilduff, founding partner of energy hedge fund Again Capital, wrote in a recent CNBC column. In the Kilduff dictionary, by the way, S.O.S. stands for “Save Our Shale” industry.


Related: Half of oil junk bonds could default

Kilduff fears Saudi Arabia’s strategy of flooding the world with oil to put pressure on high-cost producers in the U.S. will kill America’s shale business.

“While we are laughing our way to the gasoline pump now, we are heading back down the road to dependence on OPEC and foreign oil,” he wrote.

————–

Greg Valliere, chief strategist at Horizon Investments, thinks an oil bailout could become the next big issue in Congress.

“If Washington can bail out big banks and the auto industry, why not a bailout for oil companies?” Valliere wrote in a client note on Thursday.

Sheila Hollis, an energy practice partner at the law firm Duane Morris, has also heard murmurings about an oil bailout. However, she doubts there’s the political will in Washington for one.

“It makes sense in theory, but they’d need some pretty impenetrable body armor to take this on,” she said.

————-

Related: Falling oil means rising foreclosures in these states

To be sure, it’s early days for the idea of a federal rescue. A spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute told CNNMoney he hadn’t heard of the idea before.

There don’t appear to be any imminent legislative proposals in Congress for a full-scale bailout. However, Senator Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Fred Upton plan to meet to discuss an energy package that could include modest proposals such as expediting the process for exporting natural gas and loosening environmental regulations, according to The Hill.


Kilduff, the hedge fund manager, is proposing bolder ideas that include:
-Paying oil producers to shut down production, thereby reducing some of the supply glut
-Financial assistance to preserve wells for when prices rebound
-Loan guarantees to keep the industry afloat
-Revamp the bankruptcy code to help struggling oil companies restructure
-Enable the federal government to buy land with drilled-but-uncompleted wells

——————


Does the oil industry even want a bailout?

Buddy Clark, a 33-year veteran in the energy finance space, doubts these ideas would be game changers.

“The problem with most of these companies is they are overlevered. Adding federal money doesn’t help the equation,” said Clark, a partner at the Houston law firm Haynes and Boone.

He also doubts whether fiercely independent producers in places like Texas would even accept federal aid.

“No one really wants to get in bed with the federal government,” said Clark.


The Independent Petroleum Association of America, which represents thousands of independent producers, told CNNMoney it’s not interested in a bailout from Washington.

—————–

Related: $10 oil: Crazy idea or the real floor beneath the oil crash?


Federal aid would face backlash; Many Americans would staunchly oppose any federal aid for the oil industry.

“The Democrats would turn it into a bailout of ExxonMobil (XOM). It would be a political disaster,” said Joe McMonigle, former chief of staff of the Energy Department who is now a senior energy analyst at Potomac Research Group.

THEN ALSO ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS WOULD BE ENRAGED: Can President Obama would help oil producers he just referred to as “dirty energy” in his State of the Union address?

“It’s an outrageous proposal. We would oppose it, obviously,” said Athan Manuel, an official from the Sierra Club.

Related: Solar energy jobs double in 5 years

Job losses keep mounting

One idea that Kilduff proposed may generate more sympathy: give oil workers enhanced unemployment benefits or temporary government jobs as caretakers of the oilfields.

A stunning 130,000 energy jobs disappeared in 2015 as oil and natural gas companies slashed spending.

The pink slips will continue to fly as pain in the oil patch builds. Last year, 42 North American oil companies filed for bankruptcy, according to a list compiled by Haynes and Boone.

“The workers are going to suffer the most. Anything that can be done on their behalf would be great,” said Clark.

CNNMoney (New York) First published January 14, 2016: 1:37 PM ET

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 12th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Climate change means more fear, less fun for global middle class – UBS

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation – Mon, 11 Jan 2016
Author: Megan Rowling

BARCELONA, Jan 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The erosion of wealth among the world’s middle class due to climate change is a threat to economic and social stability which could spur its 1 billion members to push for action on global warming, Swiss bank UBS Group AG said.

In a study of middle-class consumption in 215 cities around the world, UBS analysts found spending priorities were noticeably different in cities most at risk from climate change such as Los Angeles, Tokyo and Shanghai.

In those top-risk cities, the middle class spent between 0.6 and 0.8 percent more on housing compared to the national average, and less on luxuries, entertainment and durable goods.

The report said middle-class households are already changing their lifestyles in the cities most exposed to hotter temperatures, rising sea levels and extreme weather such as storms and floods.

“More fear, less fun is how we might sum it up,” said the study.

In places with high risks of climate-related shocks, people spend more on the upkeep of their properties. And homes may decrease in value if certain places become less appealing to live, eating into wealth, the report said.

Efforts to adapt to changing climate conditions – which remain modest and sporadic among the middle class – can also bring new costs.

In cities that suffer extreme heat, the middle-class is increasingly laying out for air conditioning, the report noted.

But some types of adaptation can create “a negative feedback loop”, it warned. For instance, higher demand for air conditioning requires more electricity, which can lead to grid failure and increased planet-warming emissions.

In addition, inadequate infrastructure and health care systems increase the need to rely on emergency government support when disasters strike. “In our assessment this is likely, even in the richest of countries,” the report said.

The largest cities are home to nearly a quarter of the global population and generate around half of global GDP, the report said.

Most of the global middle class lives in Southeast Asia, the region that has experienced the fastest urban population growth in recent years, it noted.

But 91 percent of weather-related losses in Asia are uninsured, it added, compared with 32 percent in the United States, which had the highest level of insurance penetration in the study sample.

DRIVER OF CONFLICT

The report also said climate-driven population shifts into urban areas have the potential to create and exacerbate conflict, as in Syria.

In the course of five years of drought starting in 2006, Syria lost 85 percent of its livestock and saw crop production plummet, child malnutrition worsen and the subsequent migration of 1.5 million residents from rural to urban areas.

“These conditions led to protests, which ultimately escalated into civil war,” Zurich-based UBS said in a statement.

However, the political and social clout of middle-class populations means their vulnerability to climate change risks should translate into pressure on governments to tackle global warming, the report noted.

“The middle class has two important qualities that make them critically important to the conversation about climate change: substantial assets and political influence,” said Paul Donovan, global economist and managing director at UBS Investment Bank.

“If the effects of climate change significantly hurt the middle class, the inevitable reaction should in turn elicit a strong response from policy makers.”

(Reporting by Megan Rowling; editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 26th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Between 1979 and 1983, the American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s most powerful lobby group, ran a task force for fossil fuel companies to ‘monitor and share climate research.’


Almost All Major Oil Companies Have Known About Global Warming Since the 1970s

By Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams

26 December 2015

It wasn’t just Exxon that knew fossil fuels were cooking the planet.

New investigative reporting by Neela Banerjee with Inside Climate News revealed on Tuesday that scientists and engineers from nearly every major U.S. and multinational oil and gas company may have for decades known about the impacts of carbon emissions on the climate.

Between 1979 and 1983, the American Petroleum Institute (API), the industry’s most powerful lobby group, ran a task force for fossil fuel companies to “monitor and share climate research,” according to internal documents obtained by Inside Climate News.

According to the reporting:

Like Exxon, the companies also expressed a willingness to understand the links between their product, greater CO2 concentrations and the climate, the papers reveal. Some corporations ran their own research units as well, although they were smaller and less ambitious than Exxon’s and focused on climate modeling, said James J. Nelson, the former director of the task force.

“It was a fact-finding task force,” Nelson said in an interview. “We wanted to look at emerging science, the implications of it and where improvements could be made, if possible, to reduce emissions.”

The “CO2 and Climate Task Force,” which changed in 1980 its name to the “Climate and Energy Task Force,” included researchers from Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, Amoco, Phillips, Texaco, Shell, Sunoco and Sohio, among others.

One memo by an Exxon task force representative pointed to 1979 “background paper on CO2,” which “predicted when the first clear effects of climate change might be felt,” noting that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was rising steadily.

And at a February 1980 meeting in New York, the task force invited Professor John A. Laurmann of Stanford University to brief members about climate science.

“In his conclusions section, Laurmann estimated that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would double in 2038, which he said would likely lead to a 2.5 degrees Celsius rise in global average temperatures with ‘major economic consequences,’” Banerjee reports. He then told the task force that models showed a 5 degrees Celsius rise by 2067, with ‘globally catastrophic effects,’” Banerjee reports.

The documents show that API members, at one point, considered an alternative path in the face of these dire predictions:

Bruce S. Bailey of Texaco offered “for consideration” the idea that “an overall goal of the Task Force should be to help develop ground rules for energy release of fuels and the cleanup of fuels as they relate to CO2 creation,” according to the minutes of a meeting on Feb. 29, 1980.

The minutes also show that the task force discussed a “potential area” for research and development that called for it to “‘Investigate the Market Penetration Requirements of Introducing a New Energy Source into World Wide Use.’ This would include the technical implications of energy source changeover, research timing and requirements.”

“Yet,” Banerjee notes, “by the 1990s, it was clear that API had opted for a markedly different approach to the threat of climate change.”

The lobby group teamed up with Exxon and others to form the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), which successfully lobbied the U.S. to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol.

The damning revelations are the latest in an ongoing investigation into what the fossil fuel industry knew about climate change and then suppressed for decades—all while continuing to profit from the planet’s destruction.

Reports that Exxon, specifically, lied about climate change were published early October in the Los Angeles Times, mirroring a separate but similar investigation by Inside Climate News in September. Those findings set off a storm of outrage, including a probe by the New York Attorney General.

Nelson, a former head of the API task force, told Banerjee that with the growing powers of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the early 1980’s, API decided to shift gears.

“They took the environmental unit and put it into the political department, which was primarily lobbyists,” he said. “They weren’t focused on doing research or on improving the oil industry’s impact on pollution. They were less interested in pushing the envelope of science and more interested in how to make it more advantageous politically or economically for the oil industry. That’s not meant as a criticism. It’s just a fact of life.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 26th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We are familiar with fossil-fuels industries science arguments – but the new thing that surprised me was that “Truthout” internet site gives them a venue for publicity as in:
 www.truth-out.org/news/item/34152…

“Climate Change 2015: The Latest Science”
Saturday, 26 December 2015 00:00 By Bruce Melton, Truthout | News Analysis

Oh well, but those questionable scientists quoted did push a little too far. They actually claim that Kyoto had it better then Paris – and that Kyoto was going to fulfill Rio. Does that mean that the Truthout Analyst gives away here that the Kyoto fake solution was also sponsored by the oil&coal folks that were active in Kyoto under the mantle of the International Chamber of Commerce?
I must confess here that the ICC at Kyoto turned me of completely when they threw me out when I showed up at one of their meetings. At Kyoto the ICC seemed in close relationship with the US delegation – and there is no secret what I thought of the US sponsored Protocol. Wonders seem to come back and explain themselves!

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

SOMETIMES IN THE EARLY 80′S – AFTER I TESTIFIED BEFORE A HEARING ON THE ECONOMICS OF ETHANOL WHEN USED TO REPLACE THE LEAD COMPOUND IN GASOLINE, I WAS APPROACHED BY A SCIENTIFIC LEADER FROM EXXON, WITH THE FIRST NAME ATILA – IF I WOULD COME TO SPEAK AT THEIR SCIENCE HEADQUARTER IN FLORAL PARK? I SAID YES – WHY NOT? AFTER ALL I WENT ON THIS KIND OF MISSION ALSO AS A CONSULTANT TO TEXACO IN HOUSTON. THAT TRIP WAS CLEAR TO ME BECAUSE TEXACO HAD MANY SMALL REFINERIES THAT IT WOULD BE EXPENSIVE TO RESTRUCTURE TO PRODUCE THE HIGH OCTANE CONTENTS AT THE REFINERY – BUT EXXON?EEMINGLY THEY KNEW

AFTER A FEW DAYS I GOT INDEED BY MAIL A CONTRACT AS CONSULTANT FOR A DAY AND WHEN I GOT THERE THEY HAD ABOUT 10 PEOPLE IN THE ROOM AND I WAS ASKED MANY DIFFERENT QUESTIONS ON ENVIRONMENTAL AND ALTERNATE FUELS ISSUES. THEY HAD THERE PEOPLE I FELT WERE DOING POLICY WORK AND TECHNICAL ENGINEERS WITH HANDS ON REFINERY EXPERIENCE. OTHERS WERE CLEARLY CHEMIST.
THEY WERE NOT INTERESTED ONLY IN THAT ETHANOL ISSUE ALONE – BUT ALL POSSIBILITY FOR BIOMASS BASED CHEMISTRY AND NOT JUST GREEN TOPICS BUT ALSO ALTERNATE ENERGY STILL FOSSIL-CARBON BASED. THEY KNEW OF MY WORK WITH THE HUDSON INSTITUTE ON OIL SHALES AND MY INTEREST IN NATURAL GAS.

YEARS LATER, AT A CONFERENCE, I MET THAT ATILA AND HE TOLD ME – STILL CONNECTED WITH EXXON BUT HIS RESEARCH TEAM HAS BEEN DISBANDED BY THE COMPANY. LATER – ALL I KNEW ABOUT EXXON IS THEIR SPONSORING THE TRASH THAT WAS BEING PEDDLED BY FRED SINGER AND THEIR BACKING OF HEARTLAND FOUNDATION WERE I WENT TO A NEW YORK MEETING IN ORDER TO INTERVIEW THE NEW CZECH REPUBLIC SECOND PRESIDENT VACLAV CLAUS – AN ARDENT DISBELIEVER IN HUMAN INDUCED CLIMATE CHANGE ON HIS OWN – A CLOSE ADMIRER OF THE EXXON SPONSORED VIEWS OF THE TIME. HE CAME TO THE US NOT AS A US GOVERNMENT GUEST – BUT AS A HEARTLAND FOUNDATION GUEST.

NOW, MR. HIGHTOWER OPENED MY EYES ABOUT THAT ATILA, OR ATTILA, WHO PROBABLY WAS DOING HONEST RESEARCH ON BEHALF OF EXXON AT THE TIME THEY WERE NOT YET EXXONMOBIL. ON MOBIL OIL I HAVE ONLY BAD MEMORIES – BUT THIS IS REALLY NOT THE PLACE TO ENLARGE ON THEM BEYOND SAYING THAT IT WAS ABOUT THE MOTUNUI GAS-TO-GAS PTOJECT AND THE WHANGAREI REFINERY THAT UNDER MR. MR. WILLIAM TAVOULAREAS MOBIL OIL DESTROYED THE ENERGY POTENTIAL INDEPENDENCE OF NEW ZEALAND AND THE STUDY OF THAT DEVELOPING TOPIC COST ME SEVERAL MONTH OF WORK AND EVENTUALLY WAS CAUSE TO THE FALL OF THE ROBERT MULDOON “THINK BIG” GOVERNMENT.

—————————-

Environment
Exxon’s Voodoo-Science Campaign to Keep Us Hooked on Fossil Fuels.
In 1988, the elegant space inhabited by principle was suddenly invaded by the indelicate demands of profit.

By Jim Hightower / AlterNet
December 23, 2015

There is a constant flow of headlines these days confirming the mess we’ve made: “Looks Like Rain Again. And Again”; “Alaska Will Keep Melting”; “Climate Change a Worry to Central Bankers, Too”; “Warning on Climate Risk: Worst to Come.”

This is far from a natural phenomenon. A handful of corporate interests are causing these catastrophes. Oil, coal, auto and a few other industrial powers have profited for decades by spewing fossil fuel contaminants into the world’s atmosphere.

Some experts were speaking out about this mess nearly 40 years ago: “There is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” James Black wrote in 1978.

“Over the past several years, a clear scientific consensus has emerged,” Roger Cohen said in September 1982. “There is unanimous agreement in the scientific community that a temperature increase of this magnitude would bring about significant changes in the Earth’s climate, including rainfall distribution and alterations in the biosphere.”

The significance of these early calls to action is that they came from Exxon!

Inside Climate News revealed in an investigative series released this fall that the oil superpower (now infamous for its relentless campaign of lies to discredit climate science) was briefly a paragon of scientific integrity. From 1978 through the ’80s the corporation’s research headquarters was a buzzing hive of farsighted inquiry into the “greenhouse effect,” as the process of climate change was then called.

But in 1988, the elegant space inhabited by principle was suddenly invaded by the indelicate demands of profit. James Hansen, NASA’s renowned climate expert, testified to Congress that fossil pollution of Earth’s atmosphere had already surpassed the crisis point. “Global warming has begun,” Hansen concluded.


Then the United Nations’ intergovernmental panel on climate change issued an authoritative study in 1990 concluding that the warming was happening and the cause was emissions from fossil fuels.

With that, Exxon dismantled and defunded its research team. Ever since, it’s been the shameful, self-serving leader of a voodoo-science campaign to keep the world hooked on the fossil fuels that provide its profits.

Its strategy was to create an incessant noise machine, fueled with hundreds of millions of industry dollars, to spread the false narrative that scientists are “uncertain” about climate change. In a confidential 1998 memo, ExxonMobil’s senior environmental lobbyist stated the Orwellian goal of this corporate campaign: “Victory will be achieved when… average citizens ‘understand’ uncertainties in climate science,” and when “recognition of uncertainty becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’”

Its many tactics included forming a lobbying combine in 1989 to sow doubt among public officials about the need for government action; placing a costly, decade-long series of essays in newspapers denigrating the very scientists it previously nurtured and the science reports that it published; and trying to get the government’s chief global warming official to decry the uncertainty of climate research (then, when he refused, got the incoming Bush-Cheney regime to fire him).

Exxon also made its CEOs into hucksters of bunkum, with such lines as “the earth is cooler today than it was 20 years ago” and “it is highly unlikely that the temperature in the middle of next century will be significantly affected whether policies are enacted now or 20 years from now” and “what if everything we do, it turns out that our (climate) models are lousy, and we don’t get the (rising temperatures) we predict?”

If these denials of reality sound familiar, that’s because they’re exactly the same ones we’re now hearing from such Einsteins as Donald Trump (who recently tweeted, “I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax”), Ted Cruz (who claimed that climate change is a liberal plot for “massive government control of the economy … and every aspect of our lives”) and Jeb Bush (who said, “It’s convoluted. And for the people to say the science is decided on this is just really arrogant”).

The deniers are not only on the wrong side of science and history, but on the wrong side of most voters. A New York Times poll taken last January found that only 13 percent of the American people (and only 24 percent of Repubs) said they would be more likely to vote for 2016 presidential candidates who contend that climate change is a hoax and America should keep burning oil and coal. A September poll by three GOP firms found that 56 percent of Republicans agree that the climate is changing and 72 percent support accelerating the use of renewable fuels.

The real power, and our great hope, is in the people’s rebellion: marches, civil disobedience, trainings, teach-ins and other actions to pressure leaders to put people and the planet over corporate profiteering, while also raising global public awareness about the crucial need to get off of fossil fuels and into renewable energy. As 350.org puts it, “Politicians aren’t the only ones with power.” So the coalition will be in the global streets, on the Internet, in schools, churches and all other available forums, to rally you and me to save ourselves.

——————
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the new book, “Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow.” (Wiley, March 2008)
He publishes the monthly “Hightower Lowdown,” co-edited by Phillip Frazer.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 20th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


President Obama succeeded in what he set out to do because he learned from Al Gore’s mistakes.

Pincas Jawetz, SustainabiliTank.info Media.

The following was submitted by us to the main Civil Society outlet at the UN, and published as part of their conference final issue – December 18, 2015. So, this is not an original anymore, thanks to the fact that our material was published first by someone else.


The Kyoto Protocol was negotiated in December 1997 as a legally binding agreement under which industrialized countries were to reduce their collective emissions by 5.2 per cent compared to 1990 emissions (it is worth noting that this represented a 29 per cent emission cut by 2010 compared to an unmanaged emission scenario). This was achieved without putting any onus on those that claimed the right to pollute because they were at an industrializing stage of development. Vice President Al Gore came to Kyoto to help push the participants to accept this deal. But on July 25, 1997, by the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, the U.S. Senate led by Southern Republican Strom Thurmond, shot down the budding Protocol by an unprecedented 95-0 vote.

Al Gore’s heart was in the right place but his political know-how questionable and his leadership caused harm to his cause. Later on, in his run for the Presidency, Al Gore found himself squeezed between his own decision not to let Clinton help him – and the Green ‘Naderites’ that found him lacking in part because of the failure to find support for the Kyoto Protocol. President Obama was well familiar with the two great mistakes of Al Gore: 1) The fact that he did not understand that the Senators will never allow for a U.S. unilateral decrease in emissions if the growth of China and other countries will not bear a proportion of the responsibility. 2) That you must not speak of a legally binding international agreement because you really do not want to risk a vote in the Senate.

Looking back at the history of sustainable development and climate change, one has to start at the Rio Summit of 1992 with its high point in Agenda 21 and then go to COP1 of the UNFCCC in Berlin (1995) and jump to Kyoto (1997), followed by the empty years of the G.W. Bush/Cheney administration – until we reach the Copenhagen COP15 of 2009. That is when newly elected President Obama made his first move by going to Beijing on his way to the Conference in an attempt to make inroads with China. The Chinese agreed for the first time that they have grown to the point that they ought to worry about the effect of their emissions on the global environment and climate – but they were not ready to take the plunge without sharing this with the other BASIC countries – Brazil, India and South Africa. It took six more years for that first effort by President Obama to bear the fruits of the Paris COP21. Now the subject has opened up with nearly all countries having made voluntary commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and agreed to report their achievements on a cyclical basis. It is obvious the present commitments are only a first step in the right direction; it is anticipated that negotiations will now be possible between participating countries to further increase their efforts to decrease emissions. But one must start somewhere and Obama led to this starting position. The Senate cannot undo this.

The fact that in the meantime we saw the evolution of a sizable middle class in China that demands clean air has induced President Xi to be cooperative, but he still must keep an image of a developing country in his relationships with the old industrialized world and the lesser developed states. He is therefore slow in accepting outside monitoring of his forthcoming efforts – something that relates extremely well with another lesson President Obama has learned from Al Gore’s mistakes. President Obama does not want a strict legally binding agreement in his fight to move the world onto a path of slowing the effects of climate change. Why should he be interested in being undone by a Republican Senate obstructionist rejection?

Finally, on December 1, 2015, we received e-mail from the American Security Project (ASP) stating that former Senator Chuck Hagel – originator of the Resolution that found failing the Kyoto Protocol on counts that it did not require all nations to commit to limit the emissions and that it promised to seriously do harm to the American economy – now Board Member of ASP, now recommends the Paris Agreement and tells the U.S. Senate to get involved because climate change is a multiplier to instigators of conflicts such as resource disputes, ethnic tensions, and economic discontent. It is thus a security issue. Now think how this relates to migration forced by climate change – and you start to understand how dangerous it is to obstruct clear thinking – notoriously as caused by self serving interests of business and politics.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pincas Jawetz, Editor of SustainabiliTank.info Media and former Consultant on Energy Policy.

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for the complete issue of OUTREACH MAGAZINE please look at google for “OUTREACH MAGAZINE ISSUE OF December 18, 2015″

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 7th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Monday, 7th Dec 2015, EUobserver from Brussels


Germany criticizes Saudi Arabia for funding radical mosques.

By Eszter Zalan
BRUSSELS, Today, 09:22

German vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel urged Saudi Arabia on Sunday (7 December 2015) to stop supporting religious radicals, amid growing fear it is funding militant mosques across Europe.

“We need Saudi Arabia to solve the regional conflicts,” Sigmar Gabriel, the head of the Social Democrats (SPD), who are part of a coalition with the conservative chancellor Angela Merkel, told Bild am Sonntag newspaper in an interview.

“But we must at the same time make clear that the time to look away is past. Wahhabi mosques are financed all over the world by Saudi Arabia. In Germany, many dangerous Islamists come from these communities,” he said.


Gabriel’s criticism, though not the first, is a rare rebuke from a Western politician directed at Riyadh, the world’s biggest oil exporter.

In a statement, the Saudi Arabian embassy in Berlin said the Kingdom was interested in countering radicalisationzof young people.

“Like Germany, we are part of the anti-Islamic State coalition and fighting side by side against terror,” it said.

Saudis have cracked down on jihadists at home and cut militant finance streams, but have continued to finance imams and mosques, in the EU and in the Western Balkans, which are sympathetic to an ultra-conservative form of Islam – Wahhabism.


Islamic State (IS) and al Qaeda follow the extreme interpretation of the Salafi branch of Islam, of which Wahhabism was the original strain.

For his part, Jamal Saleh Momenah, the Saudi director of the Parc du Cinquantenaire mosque, the largest in Brussels, recently told EUobserver that: “Nobody like this [an IS recuiter] can come here. I wouldn’t allow them to come to this place and they understand my way.”

But in Germany, authorities are worried about growing support for radical Islam in its Muslim community.

German intelligence says the number of Salafists in the country has risen to 7,900, up from 5,500 just two years ago, Reuters reports.

This is not the first time Gabriel publicly voiced criticism of the Saudis.

During a trip in March to Saudi Arabia, he criticized the Gulf country over its sentencing of blogger Raif Badawi to 1,000 lashes.

With Germany, last Friday, opting to join the international coalition fighting IS in Syria, there is growing concern about possible jihadi attacks on German soil.
Foreign policy

Last Wednesday, Germany’s foreign intelligence service issued a warning about Saudi Arabia’s destabilizing role, saying the new king, Salman bin Abdulaziz, who assumed the throne in January, and his son, who is second in line for the throne, Mohammed bin Salman, and who is also defence minister, want to make their mark among Arab leaders.

It indicated that Saudi foreign policy is becoming more “impulsive”.

Saudi Arabia’s more assertive foreign policy, the German Intelligence Service, the BND said in a public report, was highlighted by a bombing campaign in Yemen against Iran-backed Houthi rebels, which started in March.

German intelligence also voiced concern on Saudi Arabia’s role in Bahrain, Lebanon, and Iraq.


The Saudis have been irked by the nuclear deal between Iran, another regional heavyweight, and the US and five nations in July, which eases sanctions on Iran, in exchange for limiting its nuclear programme.


Riyadh is worried that a strengthened Iran could undermine Saudi interests in the region.

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The US ought to be worried that most recent terrorist was a Saudi good girl, veiled Ms. Tashfeen Malik – that excelled in Pakistan as a student, and surely Pakistan benefited from Wahhabi largess in content and money.

So did America since that meeting on a boat between President Roosevelt and King Ibn Saud – and do not forget Texas Oil-man President G.W. Bush shipping out a plane load of Bin Ladins when airspace in the US was closed after 9/11-and those people could not be interrogated. It seems to be easier to close the door of the US to European travelers then to the Saudis.

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Related stories:

Germany to send 1,200 military to Middle East

Raif Badawi: Saudi blogger wins Sakharov Prize
EU to mediate in Saudi-Swedish dispute on Human Rights

today – US lawmakers preparing to vote on bill that could see select EU states lose visa waiver perks if they don’t comply with stricter security measures.

today – Germany’s vice chancellor has criticized Saudi Arabia for funding jihadist mosques across Europe in a rare rebuke to the world’s biggest oil exporter.

Today, 09:22
Germany criticizes Saudi Arabia for funding radical mosques
Today, 09:16
EU states could lose US visa waivers

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 7th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Europe | News Analysis — The New York Times
Trust and Money at Core of Crucial Paris Talks on Climate Change

By CORAL DAVENPORTDEC. 6, 2015

Photo: On Sunday, hundreds of people in Paris formed a message about how to confront climate change.
It shows at Le Bourget a mini-Eifel and the words 100% RENEWARLE
Credit Benoit Tessier/Reuters

LE BOURGET, France — The international climate change negotiations entering their second and final week encompass a vast and complicated array of political, economic and legal questions. But at bottom, the talks boil down to two issues: trust and money.

In this global forum, no one questions the established science that greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels are warming the planet — or that both developed and developing economies must all eventually lower their greenhouse emissions to stave off a future that could wreak havoc on the world’s safety and economic stability.

In a major breakthrough, 184 governments have already submitted plans detailing how they will cut their domestic emissions after 2020.

Those pledges are expected to make up the core of a new accord, which could be signed next weekend. The agreement is also expected to require countries to return to the table at least once every 10 years with even more stringent emissions reduction pledges.

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Laurence Tubiana has applied the full extent of her diplomatic skills to her role in facilitating the Paris climate talks.
At Paris Climate Talks, Top French Envoy Tries to Avoid Mistakes of Past Hosts DEC. 6, 2015

A woman wearing a mask in central Beijing on Monday in the worst recorded smog of the year. Dangerous particulates reached nearly 20 times healthy levels as President Xi Jinping joined other world leaders in Paris for climate change talks.

Sinosphere: The Findings of China’s Climate Change Report NOV. 30, 2015
President Obama with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India in Paris on Monday during the climate conference. The two have met six times in 14 months.

Narendra Modi Could Make or Break Obama’s Climate Legacy NOV. 30, 2015
Progress is being made in the use of, from left, wind turbines, solar panels and water treatment to create energy savings. But one energy analyst, Jesse Jenkins, says, “I just don’t see a World War II-style mobilization happening for anything other than a world war.”

Canada’s New Leadership Reverses Course on Climate Change NOV. 26, 2015
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But can those governments be trusted to do what they say they will do?

That is the crucial question that will determine whether a Paris climate change accord has teeth, or whether it is little more than an expression of good will.

The United States is pushing for aggressive, legally binding provisions that would require governments to monitor, verify and report their emissions reductions to an international body. But many developing nations have balked at such provisions, calling them intrusive and a potential violation of sovereignty.

The issue has emerged as a point of tension between the United States and China, after the two countries last year celebrated a breakthrough on climate policy, announcing a joint plan to reduce their future emissions.

But last month it was discovered that China was burning 17 percent more coal than it had previously reported. That episode highlighted the need for an outside body to verify countries’ emissions reductions, many observers said.

“Transparency is an enormously important part of this,” said Todd Stern, the American climate change negotiator. “One hundred and eighty-four countries have put forth targets. The transparency regime is the thing that will allow everyone to have confidence and trust that other countries are acting. It is at the core of this deal.”

Asked about the issue at a news briefing, the Chinese negotiator Su Wei said simply, “Transparency would be very important to build mutual confidence and trust,” adding, “This is one of the key issues to be resolved.

Mr. Stern said that the United States would like to see the creation of an international body of experts who would monitor and review how countries are following through on their emissions-reduction pledges. That idea has been likened to a climate-change version of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear weapons watchdog.

Another method to verify changes in global emissions could be the use of satellites to monitor tree coverage in countries like Brazil and Indonesia, which have pledged to reduce mass deforestation, a major source of greenhouse gas pollution.

“We have been defending transparency mechanisms provided they are nonintrusive, that the work is done on a cooperative way, and that the required support for the countries to undertake the work is there,” said Antonio Marcondes, the Brazilian climate change envoy. “But intrusiveness is not welcome.”

One difficulty for many countries is that they do not have the basic government accounting resources to track and monitor their industrial carbon pollution.

“We agree in principle,” with the idea of a strong verification regime, said the chief climate negotiator for Indonesia, Rachmat Witoelar. “But there are some prerequisites to that. Some of the countries need technical assistance and capacity assistance to do what is asked.”

Mr. Stern has also supported proposals in which developed nations with strong monitoring and data-crunching agencies would supply expertise to help poor countries create new institutions to measure and track their emissions. It is unclear whether that support would include a fresh allocation of United States taxpayer dollars.

That would be an intensely contentious proposal, coming in the context of the already explosive fight over money.

At the heart of the financial fight is a pledge made in 2009 by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that developed countries would mobilize $100 billion annually to help poor countries transform their energy systems from fossil fuel dependency to reliance on clean energy sources, and to adapt to the ravages of climate change.

But rich countries such as the United States have insisted that most of that money come from private investments, rather than taxpayer dollars.

President Obama’s initial pledge of $3 billion in climate finance over three years is already meeting with fierce objections from Congress.

But India has demanded that a final text include legally binding language that would commit the developed world to allocating the money from public funds.

“We will push for an increase in public spending,” said Ajay Mathur, an Indian climate change negotiator. “We want developed countries to provide resources that can help mobilize capital. The amounts that have been pledged are not enough.”

He added: “Finance is the easiest thing. All you have to do is write a check.”

Despite the standoffs, many negotiators and observers here say they are confident that a deal is in sight.

That is in part, they say, because of an optimistic and collegial mood created by the fact that, with the submission of the individual climate pledges, negotiations are further along than they have ever been in the unsuccessful two-decade process to form a climate pact.

There is also a sense of good will toward the French hosts of the summit meeting, in the wake of the terrorist attacks that killed 130 people in Paris last month. Top French officials have demonstrated an intense emotional commitment toward forging a deal.

In a speech Saturday night to the plenary session, the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, clearly emotional, spoke of the urgent need to reach a deal.

“We’re talking about life itself,” he said.

He added, “I intend to muster the experience of my entire life to the service of success for next Friday.”

Given the emotional sensitivity of the moment, and the sympathy toward France, it is unlikely, say experts, that any one country would take action to block a deal entirely.

“I think if a country were to go up against France right now, it would be looked at so badly in the broader global context,” said Jennifer Morgan, an expert in climate change negotiations at the World Resources Institute, a research organization.

However, she added, in their efforts to forge a deal no matter what, it is possible that negotiators may water down demands or simply remove crucial elements from the text — weakening the policy outcome in order to end up with a positive political moment.

“Instead of spoilers,” she said, “they could push to make the deal as weak as possible.”

—————————-
Justin Gillis contributed reporting from Paris.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The reality at the Conference is not the search for a magical agreement between all participating Nations – but rather the accountants work to paste together what is being put on the table by many individual Nations. The discussion is thus between the think-tanks that do the calculations – a far cry from what the UN wants you to believe – but then there is only one week left before the truth becomes reality.


Diplomats are trying to agree to a plan to slow global warming.
Chasing a Climate Deal in Paris

With the help of the article by Justin Gillis of The New York Times
Saturday, December 5, 2015
The end of the first week of the COP21 meeting in Paris.

The Photo – A coal-fired steel factory in Hebei, China. Groups at the climate conference in France say that to achieve a goal of limiting the increase in global temperatures, politicians of the future will have to do a lot more on emissions.

Gillis calls this – In War of the Temperatures, a Cease-Fire of Sorts
December 5, 2015

LE BOURGET, France — In the climate deal being put together here, every country gets to decide for itself how ambitious to be about cutting emissions, and how to put its goals into writing.

That means there is no standardization in the national pledges, and adding them all up to see exactly what they might accomplish is no small trick. Still, lots of think tanks have been working at it for weeks, and they have said how much they expect the deal to do for the climate if it is finalized.

The problem is that they do not agree.

Climate Interactive, an American group with ties to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, projects that by the end of the century, the deal would allow the planet to warm about 3.5 degrees Celsius (6.3 Fahrenheit) above the level that prevailed before the Industrial Revolution. That is an exceedingly worrisome number that would mean an extensive melting of the polar ice caps and a large rise in sea levels.

A coalition of European think tanks, operating under the name Climate Action Tracker, projects an increase of 2.7 degrees Celsius (4.9 Fahrenheit) under the deal — still pretty worrisome, but closer to the two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) that countries agreed five years ago would be a climatological red line.

Not surprisingly, the people running the climate conference like the lower number.

In carefully calibrated language, they have said that countries are doing enough at this conference, although they acknowledge that achieving their goals would require further action in coming years.

But if the more pessimistic forecasts are correct, one implication is that climate negotiators might be overestimating how much they have achieved.

What, exactly, is behind the so-called war of the temperatures?

The computer models that the groups are using incorporate pretty similar calculations on how sensitive the climate is to greenhouse gases. On the basic arithmetic of adding up the emissions reductions incorporated into the Paris pledges, the groups get fairly similar numbers.

Other factors are at work, as Kelly Levin and Taryn Fransen of the World Resources Institute explained on the organization’s website. Among the biggest issues dividing the groups are the assumptions they make about what will happen after 2030.

The groups getting low numbers assume that if emissions are falling in 2030 at the rate countries have promised, then that means a sweeping transformation of the energy system will be underway — and emissions will keep falling.

“We have made a call that we want to inform the people here, and the public, of what would be the consequences if this level of effort would be continued,” said Michiel Schaeffer, science director of Climate Analytics, one of the groups involved in the Climate Action Tracker analysis.

That may sound reasonable enough. But recently, experts have been warning about potential dead ends that could cause emissions reductions to stall in the 2030s.

One example would be a decision by the United States to rely too heavily on natural gas to meet its near-term emissions goals. The country might build a lot of gas power plants and pipelines that would still be in use 15 years from now, and which would then be hard to shut down in favor of cleaner technologies.

Groups like Climate Interactive do not want to assume as much about what will happen after 2030. They point out that if emissions are really going to keep falling after that, it will be a result of hard political decisions that have yet to be made. Some of those include costly investments, like improvements in electric cars — or the needed technologies might not be in place by the 2030s.

“It is dangerous for our leaders to count on emissions cuts that have not been pledged as if they will somehow occur automatically when those cuts require tough negotiations, greater funding and technology transfer for developing nations, and big changes in public opinion,” said John D. Sterman, a professor of management at M.I.T. and one of the brains behind Climate Interactive. “Our leaders must not sugar coat the challenge we face just to paint Paris as a success.”

In the war of the temperatures, it turns out the groups have reached a cease-fire.

They have looked at each others’ work and come to a clear understanding of the factors dividing them. They have basically agreed to disagree about what should be reported as the most likely temperature consequence of the Paris deal.

They all agree about one thing, however: They say the deal coming together here is inadequate.

To meet the global community’s stated goal of limiting the temperature increase, the politicians of the future will have to do a lot more on emissions than the ones who turned up in Paris early this week to take credit for helping to save the planet, the groups have said.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 4th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

A Slick Gambit by the Makers of the Keystone Pipeline

By Adam Chandler, The Atlantic

04 November 15

Why TransCanada, the company angling to build the controversial $8 billion oil project, asked the State Department to delay its application?

In a move that further complicates an already protracted drama, TransCanada, the company behind the $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline, has formally asked the State Department to delay its review of the controversial project.

“In order to allow time for certainty regarding the Nebraska route, TransCanada requests that the State Department pause in its review of the presidential permit application for KeystoneXL,” the company’s president wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Invoking Nebraska, where landowners have long been haggling with the company over possible routes for the pipeline, is a piquant twist in the years-long political saga. As my colleague Russell Berman reported in January, after Nebraska’s Supreme Court threw out a legal challenge to the project, the pipeline’s Republican supporters urged President Obama to approve it without delay. “No more excuses for President Obama,” former House Speaker John Boehner tweeted at the time.

The more likely rationale for the request is that the State Department appears poised to finally shoot down TransCanada’s bid.


“TransCanada’s move comes as the State Department was in the final stages of review, with a decision to reject the permit expected as soon as this week, according to people familiar with the matter,” reported Amy Harder at The Wall Street Journal.

With global oil prices low and new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, seen as a less ardent supporter of the project, now in office, the surprise decision to request a delay is being viewed by some as a gambit to stall a decision until more favorable conditions return—like when President Obama is no longer in office.

The proposed 1,200-mile conduit, which would carry oil from the Canada sands to the Gulf of Mexico, has so far only carried venom between the consortium of liberal politicians and environmentalists that vigorously oppose it and the conservatives that vigorously support it. That latter camp includes all Republican presidential candidates.

Back in September, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who oversaw the early stages of the recommendation process, finally announced her opposition to the project. On Tuesday, her rival Bernie Sanders, who has opposed the project since in 2011, reiterated his disapproval.

In the meantime, TransCanada’s request doesn’t mean that the State Department is obligated to stop its review of the project. However, should the delay be granted, the company may have just assured that the issue finds its way back into the 2016 spotlight. (Update: White House officials told reporters that President Obama intends to decide on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline before he leaves office.)

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BREAKING NEWS – November 6, 2015
Secretary of State John Kerry has recommended that the United States reject the Keystone XL pipeline, senior administration officials told CNN, concluding it is not in the country’s national security interest.

Kerry’s determination spells almost certain death for the massive project, a seven-year political fight that has pitted oil companies and Republicans against environmentalists.

President Barack Obama is expected to speak from the White House at 11:45 a.m. ET. Watch him on CNN.
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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 28th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

AG Globale Verantwortung, Dreikönigsaktion, IUFE, KOO, Paulo Freire Zentrum.

Die Transformation unserer Welt? Die Umsetzung der UN-Ziele für Nachhaltige Entwicklung in Österreich und Europa

29.10.2015, 19 Uhr, VHS Urania, Dachgeschoß, Uraniastraße 1, 1010 Wien

Anmeldung unter: www.pfz.at/article1780.htm

Details  www.globaleverantwortung.at/start…)

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 26th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Convening from 19-23 October 2015, the Bonn Climate Change Conference was the last in a series of meetings under the UNFCCC in preparation for the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21), scheduled to take place in November-December 2015, in Paris, France.

In their scenario note  ADP.2015.7.InformalNote), ADP Co-Chairs Ahmed Djoghlaf (Algeria) and Daniel Reifsnyder (US) identified the objective of the session as intensifying the pace of text-based negotiations among Parties, with a view to preparing the draft Paris climate package for presentation at the opening of COP 21.

At the end of the week-long meeting, Parties issued two non-papers, one containing draft agreement text and draft decision text related to the agreement (workstream 1 of ADP’s mandate) and the other containing draft decision text related to pre-2020 ambition (workstream 2).

The full and best reporting of what went on in Bonn can be found at: mail.google.com/mail/u/1/#search…
Summary of the Bonn Climate Change Conference, 19-23 October 2015, Bonn, Germany.

Going over the Summary it becomes clear – if it was not before – that there will be no UN document ready for the Paris meeting and that UN bickering will continue – be assured that some Arab State will find space to bash Israel. All what the UN can do is to bring the problem to the public’s attention, and it is left to the public to push their governments to make a commitment, that is in those countries where a public opinion counts.

Paris COP 21 of the UNFCCC will not be a wash. This thanks to the fact that over 150 countries have already presented their commitments to act on Climate Change. Take for instance the US where by now commitments from companies that are joining the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, bringing the total number of US companies that have signed onto the pledge to 81. Together, these companies have operations in all 50 US states, employ over nine million people, represent more than US$3 trillion in annual revenue, and have a combined market capitalization of over US$5 trillion.

And yes, in the EU, Japan, Brazil there are similarly industry commitments – pushed by the public. In China and India as well, the public pushes for government action on pollution of any kind and this includes a better understanding of Climate Change disasters.

In a more general way see the The International Energy Agency’s evaluation of the situation:

The IEA’s “Energy and Climate Change: World Energy Outlook” tells us that full implementation of the intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by mid-October would decouple power sector emissions from electricity demand but would still lead to an average global temperature increase of around 2.7°C, which falls short of the declared “major course correction necessary” to stay below an average global temperature rise of 2°C.

The Outlook Special Briefing for COP21′ analyzes INDCs submitted by more than 150 countries, accounting for close to 90% of global energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and assesses in particular their energy sector-related impacts.

According to the briefing, given that energy production and use account for two-thirds of global GHG emissions, “actions in the energy sector can make or break efforts to achieve the world’s agreed climate goal” of staying below a 2°C temperature rise.

The briefing examines what the energy sector will look like globally in 2030 if all INDCs are fully implemented, and whether this will place the energy sector on a path consistent with the 2°C goal.

If implemented, the INDCs will lead to an improvement of global energy intensity at a rate almost three times faster than the rate since 2000. Emissions will either plateau or decline by 2030 in countries accounting for more than half of global economic activity at present. Of new electricity generation through 2030, 70% will be low-carbon.

The IEA estimates that the full implementation of the INDCs will require US$13.5 trillion in investments in energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies through 2030.

And excerpted from a bright blogger for Huffington Post (UK):

Over the past three decades annual climate talks under the United Nations banner have become part of the Zeitgeist of a large movement. They draw government officials, think tanks, civil society, journalists and the occasional hipsters into negotiations over which ride trillions of dollars and our future well-being on Earth.

Expect a lot of drama at the next instalment, taking place in Paris in late November – early December.

Heads of state will make grandiose pronouncements.

Negotiators from 190 countries will huddle, whisper, argue over words for days and bargain in stuffy rooms in a style that would make bazaar traders proud.

Civil society will push for strong outcomes, prod for more climate finance, demonstrate occasionally (a welcome activity in Paris), express anger followed by frustration before going home let down again.

The press and the public will turn an inattentive, occasional eye to the 45,000 people gathered in Paris, then turn their attention away.

The private sector, two-thirds of global GDP and employment, will be largely absent (it is not formally represented in the negotiations) and mostly ignore the whole thing.

At the end, governments will cobble together a weak agreement to set emission reduction targets. Some will declare a major win, others will accurately note that we need to do much, much more. Then everyone will go home in time for the Christmas holidays and most of COP21, as the Paris UN gathering is known, will be forgotten.

Deeply buried in this cacophony are two emerging themes with the potential to significantly impact the private sector.

National Low Carbon Business Plans

A Paris climate agreement, no matter how wobbly, will involve more than 150 countries publishing mini business plans for their economy describing what each will do to help limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by 2030. In typical UN jargon, these low-carbon business plans are known as INDCs, short for “intended nationally determined contribution.”

The INDCs are the driving force of COP21 and will become the development pathway for all countries. Weak and general at first, they will become stronger and more detailed over time.

Two major consequences will follow.

First, multi-trillion dollar investment opportunities for the private sector will be clearly delineated, while others, far from where the country is heading, should be avoided.

For example, India’s business plan shows it wants to increase its clean energy generation capacity from 36 GW today to a whopping 320 GW by 2030. Similarly, China wants an extra 775 GW of renewables by 2030, on top of its existing 425 GW, the US wants to add an extra 179 GW and the EU another 380 GW.

Taken together, that’s double the world’s current renewable energy installed capacity (excluding hydropower) in investment potential, all of which comes with strong institutional support now that it is anchored in an INDC.

Second, the breadth of these INDCs means that within a few years, all finance will be climate finance; and all bonds will be green bonds.

We already know the commitments in Paris are nowhere near enough: The US, Europe, and China alone use up the world’s entire carbon budget by 2030. Therefore it’s reasonable to expect that they will get tougher, tighter and more precise with time because countries will be under increasing pressure to deliver, as climate change hits all of us harder and harder.

Post-2020 (the INDCs will most probably be reviewed in five year cycles), there is therefore likely to be a “wall of shame” hitting anyone who invests in non-INDC compatible, non-climate friendly technologies. In fact perhaps we will see “black bonds” emerge, highlighting investments that are increasingly unacceptable and at risk of being stranded because of their high emissions.

INDCs will make green investments even more mainstream than they are today and ensure that dirty investments are avoided on a long-term scale.

Loss and Damage

“Loss and damage,” another major theme in Paris, could have enormous financial consequences.

“Loss and damage” refers to the need to account for the impact of climate change, for example on a small island nation losing territory because of sea level rise. An element of climate negotiations for several years, its significance could be enormous for insurance companies, reinsurers, financial analysts and the markets.

Governments will continue to argue whether loss and damage is a euphemism for liability and compensation. Richer nations will end up ensuring that the answer is vague, and that therefore they can’t be held liable and won’t have to pay compensation.

However, the door is likely to be kept open for clever lawyers to use the “loss and damage” aspects of a climate change agreement to launch claims against companies: Victims of climate change will aggressively try to go after corporate polluters for compensation, particularly the likes of Exxon, Shell and BP who have known about climate change for decades but either buried the evidence or ignored it to accumulate profits at the expense of our collective health and well-being.

The results of these claims could be shocking for many. The Dutch proved earlier this year that climate liability lawsuits can stand up in courts.

The business and the financial world will be markedly absent from Paris, but should closely monitor the evolution of INDCs and of “loss and damage” in Paris. These could upend how they currently do business.

From the above, we conclude that COP 21 of the UNFCCC in Paris will have picked up from where COP 15 of Copenhagen left the Climate Change issue. Copenhagen was where the Kyoto stillborn Protocol was buried by Obama bringing for the first time the Chinese on board, now it will be the Obama-Xi alliance that will bring most true Nations on board. And let us not forget Pope Francis and the ethics of “we are the creation’s wardens.” This resonates very well with much of the public and helps the businesses that will move green.

We will not go to the opening of the Paris meeting, but will be there for the end – this so me can evaluate the outcome which promises to have practical value.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 26th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

An Economist Explains How Money Has Caused the Climate Crisis

The economy is undergoing a structural crisis for two reasons: greenhouse gas emissions and the income gap.
By Liz Pleasant / YES! Magazine
October 26, 2015

In this video, Juliet Schor, professor of sociology at Boston College, explains what she sees as a “structural crisis” within the United States.

Our economy, says Schor, is failing for two reasons. First, our current economic system generates dangerous levels of greenhouse gases. Second, the income gap between the richest and poorest Americans continues to rise, forcing more and more families into poverty.

“The reason I say it’s a systemic crisis or a structural crisis is that typically, the solution to that economic problem is to expand the economy,” Schor says. “But that makes the climate problem much worse because emissions move pretty closely with economic activity.”

Her solution? Find ways to change our economic system to be more financial and environmentally sustainable.


RELATED: The Economic Cost of Climate Change Has Been Recalculated — and the New Figure Is Staggering.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 22nd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Hillary Clinton opposes Keystone XL pipeline.

By Eric Bradner, Dan Merica and Brianna Keilar, CNN
Tuesday, September 22, 2015

(CNN) Hillary Clinton said Tuesday she opposes the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, taking sides with progressives who are fighting the 1,179-mile project over environmental concerns.

The announcement, which comes after months of Clinton remaining mum over the hot-button 2016 issue, immediately drew praise from liberals and environmental groups but was criticized by Republican presidential candidates.

“I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone pipeline as what I believe it is — a distraction from important work we have to do on climate change,” Clinton told a community forum in Des Moines, Iowa.


“And unfortunately from my perspective, one that interferes with our ability to move forward with all the other issues,” she said. “Therefore I oppose it.”

The Democratic 2016 front-runner announced her opposition to the project — which is still the subject of a years-long State Department review — as Pope Francis landed in the United States, dominating national media attention.

Clinton had not previously disclosed her position on the campaign trail despite consistent questions about her position on the project, which is widely favored by conservatives but opposed by liberals who believe it will contribute to climate change. In explaining her answer Tuesday, Clinton said she didn’t want to interfere with a review process that started under her watch.

“I was in a unique position as secretary of state at the start of this process, and not wanting to interfere with ongoing decision-making that the President and Secretary (of State John) Kerry have to do in order to make whatever final decisions they need,” Clinton said. “So I thought this would be decided by now, and therefore I could tell you whether I agree or disagree, but it hasn’t been decided, and I feel now I’ve got a responsibility to you and voters who ask me about this.”

Speaking to the Des Moines Register’s editorial board after the event, Clinton said she had “no idea” she would be asked about the pipeline Tuesday.

But, she said, “I think I owed it to people to say where I stood,” adding, “clearly, the time had come for me to answer the question.”

Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s communications director, said in a statement to CNN that Clinton’s role as a former secretary of state put her “in a different situation than other candidates.”

“Having the experience of being a former secretary of state distinguishes her and her candidacy, but it comes with responsibilities that at times can limit her,” Palmieri said. “But we know that the experience is well worth whatever price she may pay politically.”

A Clinton campaign aide told CNN that the former secretary of state couldn’t wait any longer to explain her position.

“She’s been taking on water for (not taking a position) … She didn’t want to jam Secretary Kerry or jam the President but it was just time. It’s September,” the aide said.

The aide said as pressure had mounted for Clinton to take a position, she wanted to give the administration space but doing so became untenable. The aide noted Clinton’s meeting with the Des Moines Register, and the campaign was expecting the question to come up. She wanted to be able to answer, the aide said.

The White House was briefed on Clinton’s position prior to her comments Tuesday, another Clinton aide said.

“Also, in the course of discussing her plans for increasing investment in energy infrastructure with labor officials in recent weeks, she privately made her opposition to the pipeline known to them as well,” the aide added.

Clio Cullison, a student at Drake University who came to the event after a friend of hers at 350.org, an active climate change advocacy group that has regularly followed Clinton on the campaign trail, asked her to attend and ask Clinton about the pipeline.

“I was really nervous to ask,” Cullison told CNN. “I haven’t asked any political candidates a question ever, so that was really exciting.”

The student added that she “was afraid of her answer, to be honest. I didn’t know where she was going to stand. I didn’t know if she was going to answer at all. I am really glad she did answer, one, and two, did oppose the Keystone pipeline.”

Clinton has repeatedly been asked about Keystone on the campaign trail but has never answered directly.

“I am not going to second guess (President Barack Obama) because I was in a position to set this in motion,” Clinton said at a July event in New Hampshire. “I want to wait and see what he and Secretary Kerry decide.”

At the same event, she later added, “If it is undecided when I become president, I will answer your question.”

And throughout much of 2013 and 2014, Clinton criss-crossed the country on the paid speaking circuit and later on her book tour. She was asked about Keystone a number of times, particularly in Canada, where the pipeline would originate. At no point did she take a position, however.

Clinton’s announcement on Tuesday was met with praise from environmental groups.

Jane Kleeb, director of the anti-pipeline group Bold Nebraska, said the decision “was a long time coming,” and demonstrates that Democratic candidates need to pay closer attention to the progressive base.

“Political insiders continue to not give credit to the climate movement and not give credit to farmers and ranchers who are opposed to these risky fossil fuel projects,” Kleeb told CNN. “This is a big part of her progressive base — people who are not just against Keystone but want to see action on climate change.”

And Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, said Clinton has slowly been moving in this direction since 2010, when she said she was “inclined” to approve the project. “It’s been a good evolution, always in the right direction,” he said.

“Over time, she has come to understand that a defining issue of the next election is climate change and there’s no way to address it seriously without this being answered,” McKibben said, calling it a “boondoggle” that he expects Obama to reject as well.

Clinton’s Democratic presidential opponents have opposed the deal. On Tuesday, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, lambasted her for the delay in taking a position.

“On issue after issue — marriage equality, drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants, children fleeing violence in Central America, the Syrian refugee crisis, and now the Keystone Pipeline, Secretary Clinton has followed — not forged — public opinion,” O’Malley said in a statement.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said he was “glad” Clinton came out against the pipeline.

“As a senator who has vigorously opposed the Keystone pipeline from the beginning, I am glad that Secretary Clinton finally has made a decision and I welcome her opposition to the pipeline,” Sanders said. “Clearly it would be absurd to encourage the extraction and transportation of some of the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet.”

But Republican presidential hopefuls quickly bashed Clinton over the announcement. Jeb Bush slammed Clinton for favoring “environmental extremists” in making her decision.

“.@HillaryClinton finally says what we already knew. She favors environmental extremists over U.S. jobs. #KeystoneXL,” he tweeted.

Bobby Jindal noted that Clinton’s announcement came at the same time Pope Francis arrived in the U.S.

“Hoping that Americans would be distracted by the Pope’s visit, Hillary finally admitted she opposes #KeystoneXL,” Jindal tweeted, linking to a petition on his campaign website to urge construction of the pipeline.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham fired off a series of tweets, saying the pipeline would help the economy and boost national security by reducing dependence on foreign oli.

“In opposing Keystone pipeline, Hillary Clinton once again shows that she intends to continue the failed polices of the Obama Administration,” he said.

CNN’s Dan Berman and Brianna Keilar contributed to this report.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 21st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

UN Watch Briefing
Latest from the United Nations —- Vol. 549 | September 20, 2015


BREAKING NEWS: EXPOSED BY UN WATCH

Again: Saudis Elected Chair of UN Human Rights Council Panel.

GENEVA, September 20, 2015 – U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and EU foreign minister Federica Mogherini should condemn and work to reverse the appointment of Saudi Arabia as chair of a key UN Human Rights Council panel, with the power to select top officials who shape international human rights standards and report on violations worldwide, said UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights organization based in Geneva.


“It’s scandalous that the UN chose a country that has beheaded more people this year than ISIS to be head of a key human rights panel,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer. “Petro-dollars and politics have trumped human rights.”


“Saudi Arabia has arguably the worst record in the world when it comes to religious freedom and women’s rights, and continues to imprison the innocent blogger Raif Badawi,” Neuer added.

“This UN appointment is like making a pyromaniac into the town fire chief, and underscores the credibility deficit of a human rights council that already counts Russia, Cuba, China, Qatar and Venezuela among its elected members.”

According to UNHRC documents obtained by UN Watch, Saudi Arabia was chosen to head a 5-member group of ambassadors, known as the Consultative Group, which has the power to select applicants from around the world for more than 77 positions dealing with country-specific and thematic human rights mandates.

“The UN often describes these experts as the ‘crown jewels’ of its Human Rights Council, yet the world body only undermines their legitimacy by picking a fundamentalist theocracy that oppresses women and minorities to preside over the experts’ appointment.”

Saudi Arabia Re-elected to Key Panel: A UN report dated September 17th reports that Faisal Trad, Saudi Arabia’s envoy to the UNHRC, was selected to chair the panel for appointments to be made in the current 30th session of the council, which opened on Monday and will last for another two weeks. The Saudi ambassador was first elected to the post ahead of the recent June 2015 session, yet Geneva diplomats chose to keep silent and that initial election went unreported until now.

Deal for Dropping Saudi Presidency Bid?

Neuer expressed concern that the Saudis may have been handed the position in a backroom deal, in exchange for dropping the regime’s controversial bid to become president of the entire 47-nation council. “I urge Ambassador Power and High Commissioner Mogherini to confirm that this is not the case,” he said.

Riyadh pulled out from seeking the council presidency in June following UN Watch’s protest campaign, covered in newspapers worldwide.


U.S. & EU Were Silent When Saudi Arabia Was Elected to UNHRC in 2013: “We cannot forget that the U.S. and the EU refused to utter a word of protest when we urged them, together with Saudi dissidents, to oppose the monarchy’s election in 2013. It’s a sad comment on our world that oil continues to trump basic human rights principles.”

“It’s bad enough that Saudi Arabia is a member of the council, but for the UN to go and name the regime as chair of a key panel only pours salt in the wounds for dissidents languishing in Saudi prisons, like human rights activist Raif Badawi.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 18th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Environment:
How Republicans Made Climate Change America’s Most Divisive Political Issue.
GOP-led climate denial threatens the future of the entire world.

By Reynard Loki / AlterNet
September 15, 2015

“Human kind …cannot bear very much reality.” —T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

It’s been over a year since polling data found that climate change has emerged as America’s most polarizing political issue. The survey, conducted by the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, found that the divisiveness characterizing the climate debate is so strong it has eclipsed such longstanding hot-button issues as gun control, evolution, the death penalty and even abortion. And with President Obama recently making an historic visit to Alaska to speak about the urgency of acting on climate change just as Republicans strive to derail his climate agenda, there is little sign that the climate gap separating the nation’s two major parties will be bridged any time soon.


In 2009, the Pew Research Center surveyed Americans’ views about the state of science and its impact on society. They concluded that “the strongest correlate of opinion on climate change is partisan affiliation.” Two-thirds of Republicans (67 percent) believe that global warming isn’t actually happening — or if it is, it’s not from man-made causes. By contrast, most Democrats (64 percent) say the planet is heating up mainly due to humans.


Climate change should not be this polarizing: Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN’s climate arm, reported that scientists are more than 95 percent certain that the primary cause of global warming is human activity.

American Pipe Dream

When it comes to the general election, the climate issue poses an electoral problem for the Republicans: A majority of Americans say they are more likely to support political candidates who promise to tackle climate change, according to a recent poll. Conducted by the New York Times, Stanford University and Resources for the Future, the poll found that two-thirds of Americans say they would support candidates who promised to take action to combat climate change. Almost half of Republicans (48 percent) say the same thing. The poll also found that a solid majority of U.S. voters, 83 percent, believe global warming poses a serious threat to the world.

While there are climate deniers across the globe, this anti-science stance is a particularly American phenomenon. In the U.S., elected GOP climate deniers are commonplace; several of them are seeking the presidency.
It’s a different story in other industrualized nations.

“In Europe, climate change denial is seen as the preserve of the crackpot,” writes London-based finance and economics writer Imogen Reed. “Few political figures or members of the news media would dream of mentioning it, as doing so often receives the same contempt from the European public as denying the Holocaust.”

Even citizens of emerging countries are more attuned to the realities of global warming. The 2010 Pew Global Attitudes Project found that the majority of consumers in China (91 percent), India (73 percent) and South Korea (71 percent) are willing to pay higher prices to address climate change. Not so in America, where a mere 38 percent of consumers would do the same. “In this sentiment, people in the U.S. are out of step with the world,” the report’s authors write. “In most of the countries surveyed people are more likely than Americans to be willing to pay for efforts to slow global warming.”

“In this sentiment, people in the US are out of step with the world,” according to the Pew survey. “In most of the countries surveyed people are more likely than Americans to be willing to pay for efforts to slow global warming.”{4} – See more at: www.justmeans.com/blogs/if-you-ha…

The GOP’s climate denial, buoyed by a massive social, financial and political machine oiled by conservative think-tanks and activist groups, has created a potentially disastrous situation in which climate change — arguably the most pressing global issue of our time — has also become the most polarizing topic in the nation whose leadership is absolutely critical to finding a solution. While Obama committed to an 83 percent reduction in carbon emissions on 2005 levels by 2050, that goal faces a massive hurdle: a rich and powerful Republican machine that seeks to dismantle the president’s climate agenda. With the two major parties locked in a seemingly intractable adversarial stance on the topic, truly meaningful action seems almost like a pipe dream.

If it is a dream, it’s because the GOP refuses to accept reality. The Carsey poll found that party-line gaps on science-related questions “equal or surpass those of historically divisive social issues.” The division is primarily driven by the Republicans, 70 percent of whom don’t believe in global warming. This position stands in stark contrast to the world’s scientists, 97 percent of whom agree that global warming has occurred in the last century. Lawrence Hamilton, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire who conducted the Carsey poll, wrote that the findings represent “a changing political landscape in which scientific ideas and information that are accepted by most scientists are, nevertheless, highly controversial.”

Media Misinformation

The controversy is fueled in part by misinformation coming from the media. Last year, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released its analysis of 2013 climate coverage by the three major American cable news networks. The researchers confirmed what most environmentalists had already guessed: Fox News leads the pack in climate misinformation. The right-wing mouthpiece presented misleading statements in almost three out of every four (72 percent) of its climate-related segments. Bucking that trend is Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, who has acknowledged anthropogenic, or human-caused, climate change, though he is one of very few voices at the network to do so.

But Fox can’t take all the blame; a third of CNN segments contained misleading statements as well. UCS offered a suggestion: “The biggest step that CNN could take to increase accuracy is to stop hosting debates about established climate science and instead focus debates on whether and how to respond to climate change through climate policy.” MSNBC was the most accurate of the three, at 8 percent.

“The public deserves climate coverage that gets the science right,” say the UCS report’s authors. “Media outlets can do more to foster a fact-based conversation about climate change and policies designed to address it, rather than contributing to a broken and inaccurate debate about the established facts of climate science.”

Network television news has also done a terrible job covering climate change. In March, Miles Grant, senior communications manager for the National Wildlife Federation, wrote about the failure of the three major networks to properly report on the extreme weather that battered the U.S. early this year:

In recent weeks, network television news has understandably focused extensively on the extreme cold and snow in the Northeast and upper Midwest. But a new FAIR [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting] study shows they’ve almost completely ignored a related and even more dangerous phenomenon out West: record-shattering winter warmth. And they’ve overwhelmingly failed to discuss what connects the two sets of strange weather phenomena: human-caused climate disruption.

The study looked at ABC, CBS and NBC transcripts from January 25 (as storm Juno approached the Northeast) through March 4. They found that while 417 network segments mentioned the extreme cold, only seven (barely over 1 percent) referenced climate change, even though scientists have already made the link. As Juno bore down on the U.S., National Center for Atmospheric Research climatologist Kevin Trenberth told the Guardian, “You can end up with heavier snows in part because of climate change.”

Follow the Money

It’s bad enough that the media is not properly covering climate change, and when they do, much of the coverage is rife with wrong information. But efforts to inform the public with peer-reviewed scientific research and stimulate legislative action on the climate issue are also being stymied by the millions of dollars spent on lobbying against President Obama’s climate efforts and supporting climate denial.

In June, the Guardian published the findings of its analysis of annual tax filings made to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service by the Donor’s Trust and Donor’s Capital Fund (DT and DCF, together known as the “Dark Money ATM” of the conservative movement). The Guardian found that these funds — which cannot be traced to individuals — directed around $125 million over three years to groups “spreading disinformation about climate science and committed to wrecking Barack Obama’s climate change plan.”

In a separate analysis, DeSmog, a website focusing on global warming misinformation campaigns, examined tax records to reveal that between 2005 and 2012, DT and DCF, both of which share an address in Virginia, received $479 million of dark money from individuals or groups that do not have to declare their donations. Moreover, a Greenpeace analysis found that between 2002 and 2013, DCF gave $16 million to the Heartland Institute, which hosts regular conferences for climate deniers and once likened people who believed in climate change science to mass murderers.

“The conservative think tanks are really the spearhead of the conservative assault on climate change,” said Riley Dunlap, a University of Oklahoma sociologist who helped establish the field of environmental sociology in the 1970s. “They write books, put out briefings and open editorials, bring in contrarian scientists. …They are an immense megaphone that amplifies very, very minority voices.”

“All these corporations that were getting bad press realized they can still fund conservative think tanks,” said Dunlap. “Exxon or BP can still fund one of these things while doing all these great things on climate change to reduce emissions.” Greenpeace revealed that, between 2005 and 2008, ExxonMobil spent $8.9 million funding the climate denial machine. But that was dwarfed by Koch Industries, which pumped $24.9 million into the effort over the same period.

Robert Brulle, a professor of sociology and environmental science at Drexel University who first exposed the complex and highly secretive matrix of activist groups and think tanks that comprise the conservative climate change counter-movement, said those funds were used to fine-tune opposition to climate-related regulations. “It is a well-oiled, complicated, cultural and political machine of the right wing of the conservative movement,” he said.

Reading Tea Leaves

While the GOP mainstream has money and media working to promote climate denial and fight climate legislation, the Tea Party has played a unique and significant role in the country’s climate polarization. “While large majorities of Democrats, Independents, and non-Tea Party Republicans say they trust scientists, only 28 percent of Tea Party Republicans trust them,” writes Hamilton, the Carsey poll researcher.

With one in four Americans saying they are Tea Party supporters, that’s nearly 80 million people distrusting science. So it should be no surprise that within the GOP, the Tea Partiers are the most fervent wavers of the climate denial flag. “Tea Party Republicans are least likely to agree with the consensus among scientists that humans are changing the climate, or that humans evolved from earlier life forms in a process that took millions of years,” Hamilton writes. A 2013 Pew poll found that Tea Partiers are the only group of Americans who think the Earth is not warming.

John M. Broder, who reports on energy and environment issues for the Washington bureau of the New York Times, argues that while Tea Partiers may arrive at climate denial from different places, they are unified in their resistance to federal oversight:

Skepticism and outright denial of global warming are among the articles of faith of the Tea Party movement. …For some, it is a matter of religious conviction; for others, it is driven by distrust of those they call the elites. And for others still, efforts to address climate change are seen as a conspiracy to impose world government and a sweeping redistribution of wealth. But all are wary of the Obama administration’s plans to regulate carbon dioxide, a ubiquitous gas, which will require the expansion of government authority into nearly every corner of the economy.

GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, (R-Tex.), a Tea Party favorite, has acknowledged that global warming is real, but is vociferous in his belief that it is not man-made. “On the global warming alarmists, anyone who actually points to the evidence that disproves their apocalyptical claims, they don’t engage in reasoned debate,” Cruz said in March. “What do they do? They scream, ‘You’re a denier.’ They brand you a heretic. Today, the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-earthers.” Cruz called for Obama’s new EPA regulations requiring existing power plants to reduce their carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030 to be “invalidated by Congress, struck down by the courts, or rescinded by the next administration.

But how long will the Tea Party wield influence on the climate debate? Tea Partiers tend to be older than other Republicans (25 percent are 65 or older, compared with 19 percent of other GOP supporters). And since young people overwhelmingly believe that climate change is happening (only 3 percent don’t), perhaps the Tea Party’s ability to shape the climate debate will diminish over time. But by then, it may be too late to do anything about it.

GOP-Led Rift

While environmentalists have targeted climate change as a wedge issue that might influence the independent vote, the climate divide is just one part of a larger trend in the United States. An expansive 2014 Pew political polarizaton survey of 10,000 adults nationwide concluded that “Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines — and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive — than at any point in the last two decades.” This deep animosity is extremely worrisome. Since 1994, the percentage of party-affiliated Americans who have a highly negative view of the opposing party has doubled, with the majority of these fiercely partisan voters viewing the opposing party’s policies as “so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being.”

Though both parties are fomenting an increasing hatred for each other, it’s the Republicans who must bear the brunt of the blame — even as theirs is the party that more often plays the blame game and harbors more distrust. According to Pew, more conservatives (72 percent) have a “very unfavorable opinion” of Democrats, compared to 53 percent of liberals who share the same view of Republicans. In addition, conservatives are more likely to say that Democratic party policies are a threat to the nation’s well-being.

The Pew authors also note that the so-called “Obama derangement syndrome” — a condition afflicting Republicans who are so hell-bent on thwarting the president that they will even reverse long-held beliefs to do so — is a source of the intense distrust Republicans have for Democratic policies. “At least in part,” they write, “the strongly negative views Republicans have of the Democratic Party reflect their deep-seated dislike of Barack Obama.”

Some have argued that today’s polarization may simply be a return to historic norms. But considering the fact that, as the United Nations warned last year, we are rapidly running out of time to act on climate change, U.S. political gridlock is more dangerous than ever, and exists on a grander scale because the nation’s failure to act on climate directly impacts the rest of the world. In 2013, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere actually increased at the fastest rate in nearly three decades, with the U.S. contributing nearly a seventh of the total amount.

Not only is the world going in the wrong direction, America’s main political parties are going in opposite directions from each other, with no sign that agreement on the climate is in the cards, thanks in most part to GOP obstructionism. As the Pew poll discovered, compromise is essentially a liberal value: Conservatives don’t like it. Less than a third of conservative voters prefer politicians who make compromises, compared with 82 percent of liberals.

Writing in the Altantic in May of last year, Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, laid the blame of the nation’s current political dysfunction squarely in the GOP’s camp:

Republicans have become a radical insurgency — ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited policy regime, scornful of compromise, unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of their political opposition. The evidence of this asymmetry is overwhelming.

The Power of Denial

Even more alarming is the fact that the climate denial sown by the GOP machine is, to a certain extent, working. According to a recent study led by University of Bristol cognitive scientist Stephan Lewandowsky, the ceaseless public debate over whether climate change is actually happening is making some climate scientists understate their own findings, which unintentionally supports the climate deniers’ position that it is too soon to take aggressive climate action.

“In response to constant, and sometimes toxic, public challenges, scientists have over-emphasized scientific uncertainty, and have inadvertently allowed contrarian claims to affect how they themselves speak, and perhaps even think, about their own research,” writes Lewandowsky in the journal Global Environmental Change. One of the psychological mechanisms behind this, he argues, is pluralistic ignorance, a social phenomenon that occurs when “a minority opinion is given disproportionate prominence in public debate, resulting in the majority of people incorrectly assuming their opinion is marginalized.” So, while climate deniers may be in the minority, the regular coverage of climate denial by Fox News and other conservative media, and perhaps even the lack of climate change coverage by mainstream media, are contributing factors to scientists’ muted approach.

Environment
How Republicans Made Climate Change America’s Most Divisive Political Issue
GOP-led climate denial threatens the future of the entire world.
By Reynard Loki / AlterNet
September 15, 2015

Print
529 COMMENTS

“Human kind …cannot bear very much reality.” —T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

It’s been over a year since polling data found that climate change has emerged as America’s most polarizing political issue. The survey, conducted by the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, found that the divisiveness characterizing the climate debate is so strong it has eclipsed such longstanding hot-button issues as gun control, evolution, the death penalty and even abortion. And with President Obama recently making an historic visit to Alaska to speak about the urgency of acting on climate change just as Republicans strive to derail his climate agenda, there is little sign that the climate gap separating the nation’s two major parties will be bridged any time soon.

In 2009, the Pew Research Center surveyed Americans’ views about the state of science and its impact on society. They concluded that “the strongest correlate of opinion on climate change is partisan affiliation.” Two-thirds of Republicans (67 percent) believe that global warming isn’t actually happening — or if it is, it’s not from man-made causes. By contrast, most Democrats (64 percent) say the planet is heating up mainly due to humans.

Climate change should not be this polarizing: Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN’s climate arm, reported that scientists are more than 95 percent certain that the primary cause of global warming is human activity.

American Pipe Dream

When it comes to the general election, the climate issue poses an electoral problem for the Republicans: A majority of Americans say they are more likely to support political candidates who promise to tackle climate change, according to a recent poll. Conducted by the New York Times, Stanford University and Resources for the Future, the poll found that two-thirds of Americans say they would support candidates who promised to take action to combat climate change. Almost half of Republicans (48 percent) say the same thing. The poll also found that a solid majority of U.S. voters, 83 percent, believe global warming poses a serious threat to the world.

While there are climate deniers across the globe, this anti-science stance is a particularly American phenomenon. In the U.S., elected GOP climate deniers are commonplace; several of them are seeking the presidency. It’s a different story in other industrualized nations. “In Europe, climate change denial is seen as the preserve of the crackpot,” writes London-based finance and economics writer Imogen Reed. “Few political figures or members of the news media would dream of mentioning it, as doing so often receives the same contempt from the European public as denying the Holocaust.”

Even citizens of emerging countries are more attuned to the realities of global warming. The 2010 Pew Global Attitudes Project found that the majority of consumers in China (91 percent), India (73 percent) and South Korea (71 percent) are willing to pay higher prices to address climate change. Not so in America, where a mere 38 percent of consumers would do the same. “In this sentiment, people in the U.S. are out of step with the world,” the report’s authors write. “In most of the countries surveyed people are more likely than Americans to be willing to pay for efforts to slow global warming.”
“In this sentiment, people in the US are out of step with the world,” according to the Pew survey. “In most of the countries surveyed people are more likely than Americans to be willing to pay for efforts to slow global warming.”{4} – See more at: www.justmeans.com/blogs/if-you-ha…

The GOP’s climate denial, buoyed by a massive social, financial and political machine oiled by conservative think-tanks and activist groups, has created a potentially disastrous situation in which climate change — arguably the most pressing global issue of our time — has also become the most polarizing topic in the nation whose leadership is absolutely critical to finding a solution. While Obama committed to an 83 percent reduction in carbon emissions on 2005 levels by 2050, that goal faces a massive hurdle: a rich and powerful Republican machine that seeks to dismantle the president’s climate agenda. With the two major parties locked in a seemingly intractable adversarial stance on the topic, truly meaningful action seems almost like a pipe dream.

If it is a dream, it’s because the GOP refuses to accept reality. The Carsey poll found that party-line gaps on science-related questions “equal or surpass those of historically divisive social issues.” The division is primarily driven by the Republicans, 70 percent of whom don’t believe in global warming. This position stands in stark contrast to the world’s scientists, 97 percent of whom agree that global warming has occurred in the last century. Lawrence Hamilton, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire who conducted the Carsey poll, wrote that the findings represent “a changing political landscape in which scientific ideas and information that are accepted by most scientists are, nevertheless, highly controversial.”

Media Misinformation

The controversy is fueled in part by misinformation coming from the media. Last year, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released its analysis of 2013 climate coverage by the three major American cable news networks. The researchers confirmed what most environmentalists had already guessed: Fox News leads the pack in climate misinformation. The right-wing mouthpiece presented misleading statements in almost three out of every four (72 percent) of its climate-related segments. Bucking that trend is Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, who has acknowledged anthropogenic, or human-caused, climate change, though he is one of very few voices at the network to do so.

But Fox can’t take all the blame; a third of CNN segments contained misleading statements as well. UCS offered a suggestion: “The biggest step that CNN could take to increase accuracy is to stop hosting debates about established climate science and instead focus debates on whether and how to respond to climate change through climate policy.” MSNBC was the most accurate of the three, at 8 percent.

“The public deserves climate coverage that gets the science right,” say the UCS report’s authors. “Media outlets can do more to foster a fact-based conversation about climate change and policies designed to address it, rather than contributing to a broken and inaccurate debate about the established facts of climate science.”

Network television news has also done a terrible job covering climate change. In March, Miles Grant, senior communications manager for the National Wildlife Federation, wrote about the failure of the three major networks to properly report on the extreme weather that battered the U.S. early this year:

In recent weeks, network television news has understandably focused extensively on the extreme cold and snow in the Northeast and upper Midwest. But a new FAIR [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting] study shows they’ve almost completely ignored a related and even more dangerous phenomenon out West: record-shattering winter warmth. And they’ve overwhelmingly failed to discuss what connects the two sets of strange weather phenomena: human-caused climate disruption.

The study looked at ABC, CBS and NBC transcripts from January 25 (as storm Juno approached the Northeast) through March 4. They found that while 417 network segments mentioned the extreme cold, only seven (barely over 1 percent) referenced climate change, even though scientists have already made the link. As Juno bore down on the U.S., National Center for Atmospheric Research climatologist Kevin Trenberth told the Guardian, “You can end up with heavier snows in part because of climate change.”

Follow the Money

It’s bad enough that the media is not properly covering climate change, and when they do, much of the coverage is rife with wrong information. But efforts to inform the public with peer-reviewed scientific research and stimulate legislative action on the climate issue are also being stymied by the millions of dollars spent on lobbying against President Obama’s climate efforts and supporting climate denial.

In June, the Guardian published the findings of its analysis of annual tax filings made to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service by the Donor’s Trust and Donor’s Capital Fund (DT and DCF, together known as the “Dark Money ATM” of the conservative movement). The Guardian found that these funds — which cannot be traced to individuals — directed around $125 million over three years to groups “spreading disinformation about climate science and committed to wrecking Barack Obama’s climate change plan.”

In a separate analysis, DeSmog, a website focusing on global warming misinformation campaigns, examined tax records to reveal that between 2005 and 2012, DT and DCF, both of which share an address in Virginia, received $479 million of dark money from individuals or groups that do not have to declare their donations. Moreover, a Greenpeace analysis found that between 2002 and 2013, DCF gave $16 million to the Heartland Institute, which hosts regular conferences for climate deniers and once likened people who believed in climate change science to mass murderers.

“The conservative think tanks are really the spearhead of the conservative assault on climate change,” said Riley Dunlap, a University of Oklahoma sociologist who helped establish the field of environmental sociology in the 1970s. “They write books, put out briefings and open editorials, bring in contrarian scientists. …They are an immense megaphone that amplifies very, very minority voices.”

“All these corporations that were getting bad press realized they can still fund conservative think tanks,” said Dunlap. “Exxon or BP can still fund one of these things while doing all these great things on climate change to reduce emissions.” Greenpeace revealed that, between 2005 and 2008, ExxonMobil spent $8.9 million funding the climate denial machine. But that was dwarfed by Koch Industries, which pumped $24.9 million into the effort over the same period.

Robert Brulle, a professor of sociology and environmental science at Drexel University who first exposed the complex and highly secretive matrix of activist groups and think tanks that comprise the conservative climate change counter-movement, said those funds were used to fine-tune opposition to climate-related regulations. “It is a well-oiled, complicated, cultural and political machine of the right wing of the conservative movement,” he said.

Reading Tea Leaves

While the GOP mainstream has money and media working to promote climate denial and fight climate legislation, the Tea Party has played a unique and significant role in the country’s climate polarization. “While large majorities of Democrats, Independents, and non-Tea Party Republicans say they trust scientists, only 28 percent of Tea Party Republicans trust them,” writes Hamilton, the Carsey poll researcher.

With one in four Americans saying they are Tea Party supporters, that’s nearly 80 million people distrusting science. So it should be no surprise that within the GOP, the Tea Partiers are the most fervent wavers of the climate denial flag. “Tea Party Republicans are least likely to agree with the consensus among scientists that humans are changing the climate, or that humans evolved from earlier life forms in a process that took millions of years,” Hamilton writes. A 2013 Pew poll found that Tea Partiers are the only group of Americans who think the Earth is not warming.

John M. Broder, who reports on energy and environment issues for the Washington bureau of the New York Times, argues that while Tea Partiers may arrive at climate denial from different places, they are unified in their resistance to federal oversight:

Skepticism and outright denial of global warming are among the articles of faith of the Tea Party movement. …For some, it is a matter of religious conviction; for others, it is driven by distrust of those they call the elites. And for others still, efforts to address climate change are seen as a conspiracy to impose world government and a sweeping redistribution of wealth. But all are wary of the Obama administration’s plans to regulate carbon dioxide, a ubiquitous gas, which will require the expansion of government authority into nearly every corner of the economy.

GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, (R-Tex.), a Tea Party favorite, has acknowledged that global warming is real, but is vociferous in his belief that it is not man-made. “On the global warming alarmists, anyone who actually points to the evidence that disproves their apocalyptical claims, they don’t engage in reasoned debate,” Cruz said in March. “What do they do? They scream, ‘You’re a denier.’ They brand you a heretic. Today, the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-earthers.” Cruz called for Obama’s new EPA regulations requiring existing power plants to reduce their carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030 to be “invalidated by Congress, struck down by the courts, or rescinded by the next administration.”

But how long will the Tea Party wield influence on the climate debate? Tea Partiers tend to be older than other Republicans (25 percent are 65 or older, compared with 19 percent of other GOP supporters). And since young people overwhelmingly believe that climate change is happening (only 3 percent don’t), perhaps the Tea Party’s ability to shape the climate debate will diminish over time. But by then, it may be too late to do anything about it.

GOP-Led Rift

While environmentalists have targeted climate change as a wedge issue that might influence the independent vote, the climate divide is just one part of a larger trend in the United States. An expansive 2014 Pew political polarizaton survey of 10,000 adults nationwide concluded that “Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines — and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive — than at any point in the last two decades.” This deep animosity is extremely worrisome. Since 1994, the percentage of party-affiliated Americans who have a highly negative view of the opposing party has doubled, with the majority of these fiercely partisan voters viewing the opposing party’s policies as “so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being.”

Though both parties are fomenting an increasing hatred for each other, it’s the Republicans who must bear the brunt of the blame — even as theirs is the party that more often plays the blame game and harbors more distrust. According to Pew, more conservatives (72 percent) have a “very unfavorable opinion” of Democrats, compared to 53 percent of liberals who share the same view of Republicans. In addition, conservatives are more likely to say that Democratic party policies are a threat to the nation’s well-being.

The Pew authors also note that the so-called “Obama derangement syndrome” — a condition afflicting Republicans who are so hell-bent on thwarting the president that they will even reverse long-held beliefs to do so — is a source of the intense distrust Republicans have for Democratic policies. “At least in part,” they write, “the strongly negative views Republicans have of the Democratic Party reflect their deep-seated dislike of Barack Obama.”

Some have argued that today’s polarization may simply be a return to historic norms. But considering the fact that, as the United Nations warned last year, we are rapidly running out of time to act on climate change, U.S. political gridlock is more dangerous than ever, and exists on a grander scale because the nation’s failure to act on climate directly impacts the rest of the world. In 2013, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere actually increased at the fastest rate in nearly three decades, with the U.S. contributing nearly a seventh of the total amount.

Not only is the world going in the wrong direction, America’s main political parties are going in opposite directions from each other, with no sign that agreement on the climate is in the cards, thanks in most part to GOP obstructionism. As the Pew poll discovered, compromise is essentially a liberal value: Conservatives don’t like it. Less than a third of conservative voters prefer politicians who make compromises, compared with 82 percent of liberals.

Writing in the Altantic in May of last year, Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, laid the blame of the nation’s current political dysfunction squarely in the GOP’s camp:

Republicans have become a radical insurgency — ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited policy regime, scornful of compromise, unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of their political opposition. The evidence of this asymmetry is overwhelming.

The Power of Denial

Even more alarming is the fact that the climate denial sown by the GOP machine is, to a certain extent, working. According to a recent study led by University of Bristol cognitive scientist Stephan Lewandowsky, the ceaseless public debate over whether climate change is actually happening is making some climate scientists understate their own findings, which unintentionally supports the climate deniers’ position that it is too soon to take aggressive climate action.

“In response to constant, and sometimes toxic, public challenges, scientists have over-emphasized scientific uncertainty, and have inadvertently allowed contrarian claims to affect how they themselves speak, and perhaps even think, about their own research,” writes Lewandowsky in the journal Global Environmental Change. One of the psychological mechanisms behind this, he argues, is pluralistic ignorance, a social phenomenon that occurs when “a minority opinion is given disproportionate prominence in public debate, resulting in the majority of people incorrectly assuming their opinion is marginalized.” So, while climate deniers may be in the minority, the regular coverage of climate denial by Fox News and other conservative media, and perhaps even the lack of climate change coverage by mainstream media, are contributing factors to scientists’ muted approach.

“A public discourse that asserts that the IPCC has exaggerated the threat of climate change,” Lewandoswky points out, “may cause scientists who disagree to think their views are in the minority, and they may therefore feel inhibited from speaking out in public.” Furthermore, the researchers said when offering rebuttals to their critics, scientists often do so “within a linguistic landscape created by denial and often in a manner that reinforces the contrarian claim.”

This assessment supports the UCS analysis of cable news coverage of climate change; specifically of how CNN, an ostensibly centrist network (at least in comparison to Fox), readily offers a soapbox for the climate denial wing. “Most of CNN’s misleading coverage stemmed from debates between guests who accepted established climate science and other guests who disputed it,” write the UCS report’s authors. “This format suggests that established climate science is still widely debated among scientists, which it is not, and also allows opponents of climate policy to convey inaccurate statements about climate science.”

With the media freely giving airtime to climate deniers, GOP presidential candidates feel no inhibition about sharing their particular strain of climate denial with the world. They are joined by growing ranks of Republican politicians of varying levels of anti-science denial, but who agree in their opposition of any policy to combat climate change. “You don’t have to be an outright science denier to try to prevent action on climate change,” said Brulle. “You’ve got gradation — it’s not real; it’s real but we are not sure how much humans are contributing to it; ‘I am not a scientist’ phrase as a way to avoid the issue while avoiding being labeled an outright denier. There are all sorts of strategies.”

The GOP has done an excellent job at sowing enough doubt to create a political rift that threatens any U.S.-led action on climate change. Even GOP governors have lined up to defy Obama’s new emissions rules. Jim Manzi, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, offered an explanation of the GOP’s stance — and its predicament — in a recent National Affairs essay:

The Republican position?—?either avowed ignorance or conspiracy theorizing?—?is ultimately unsustainable, but some still cling to it because they believe that accepting the premise that some climate change is occurring as a result of human action means accepting the conclusions of the most rabid left-wing climate activists. They fear, at least implicitly, that the politics of climate change is just a twisted road with a known destination: supporting new carbon taxes, a cap-and-trade system, or other statist means of energy rationing, and in the process ceding yet another key economic sector to government control. Conservatives seem to be on the horns of a dilemma: They will have to either continue to ignore real scientific findings or accept higher taxes, energy rationing, and increased regulation.

The ultimate unsustainabilty of the party’s climate denialist position was alluded to more than four years earlier by a GOP renegade, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. During the last presidential election, at the Republican debate on September 7, 2012, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were united in their distrust of the science behind anthropogenic global warming. Huntsman was the lone climate hawk. He said, “When you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I’m saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can’t run from science.”

His statement echoed one of his tweets from the previous month: “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.” Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina later acknowledged that Huntsman, who had previously served as Obama’s ambassador to China, “would have been a very tough candidate.”

Environment
How Republicans Made Climate Change America’s Most Divisive Political Issue
GOP-led climate denial threatens the future of the entire world.
By Reynard Loki / AlterNet
September 15, 2015

Print
529 COMMENTS

“Human kind …cannot bear very much reality.” —T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

It’s been over a year since polling data found that climate change has emerged as America’s most polarizing political issue. The survey, conducted by the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, found that the divisiveness characterizing the climate debate is so strong it has eclipsed such longstanding hot-button issues as gun control, evolution, the death penalty and even abortion. And with President Obama recently making an historic visit to Alaska to speak about the urgency of acting on climate change just as Republicans strive to derail his climate agenda, there is little sign that the climate gap separating the nation’s two major parties will be bridged any time soon.

In 2009, the Pew Research Center surveyed Americans’ views about the state of science and its impact on society. They concluded that “the strongest correlate of opinion on climate change is partisan affiliation.” Two-thirds of Republicans (67 percent) believe that global warming isn’t actually happening — or if it is, it’s not from man-made causes. By contrast, most Democrats (64 percent) say the planet is heating up mainly due to humans.

Climate change should not be this polarizing: Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN’s climate arm, reported that scientists are more than 95 percent certain that the primary cause of global warming is human activity.

American Pipe Dream

When it comes to the general election, the climate issue poses an electoral problem for the Republicans: A majority of Americans say they are more likely to support political candidates who promise to tackle climate change, according to a recent poll. Conducted by the New York Times, Stanford University and Resources for the Future, the poll found that two-thirds of Americans say they would support candidates who promised to take action to combat climate change. Almost half of Republicans (48 percent) say the same thing. The poll also found that a solid majority of U.S. voters, 83 percent, believe global warming poses a serious threat to the world.

While there are climate deniers across the globe, this anti-science stance is a particularly American phenomenon. In the U.S., elected GOP climate deniers are commonplace; several of them are seeking the presidency. It’s a different story in other industrualized nations. “In Europe, climate change denial is seen as the preserve of the crackpot,” writes London-based finance and economics writer Imogen Reed. “Few political figures or members of the news media would dream of mentioning it, as doing so often receives the same contempt from the European public as denying the Holocaust.”

Even citizens of emerging countries are more attuned to the realities of global warming. The 2010 Pew Global Attitudes Project found that the majority of consumers in China (91 percent), India (73 percent) and South Korea (71 percent) are willing to pay higher prices to address climate change. Not so in America, where a mere 38 percent of consumers would do the same. “In this sentiment, people in the U.S. are out of step with the world,” the report’s authors write. “In most of the countries surveyed people are more likely than Americans to be willing to pay for efforts to slow global warming.”
“In this sentiment, people in the US are out of step with the world,” according to the Pew survey. “In most of the countries surveyed people are more likely than Americans to be willing to pay for efforts to slow global warming.”{4} – See more at: www.justmeans.com/blogs/if-you-ha…

The GOP’s climate denial, buoyed by a massive social, financial and political machine oiled by conservative think-tanks and activist groups, has created a potentially disastrous situation in which climate change — arguably the most pressing global issue of our time — has also become the most polarizing topic in the nation whose leadership is absolutely critical to finding a solution. While Obama committed to an 83 percent reduction in carbon emissions on 2005 levels by 2050, that goal faces a massive hurdle: a rich and powerful Republican machine that seeks to dismantle the president’s climate agenda. With the two major parties locked in a seemingly intractable adversarial stance on the topic, truly meaningful action seems almost like a pipe dream.

If it is a dream, it’s because the GOP refuses to accept reality. The Carsey poll found that party-line gaps on science-related questions “equal or surpass those of historically divisive social issues.” The division is primarily driven by the Republicans, 70 percent of whom don’t believe in global warming. This position stands in stark contrast to the world’s scientists, 97 percent of whom agree that global warming has occurred in the last century. Lawrence Hamilton, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire who conducted the Carsey poll, wrote that the findings represent “a changing political landscape in which scientific ideas and information that are accepted by most scientists are, nevertheless, highly controversial.”

Media Misinformation

The controversy is fueled in part by misinformation coming from the media. Last year, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released its analysis of 2013 climate coverage by the three major American cable news networks. The researchers confirmed what most environmentalists had already guessed: Fox News leads the pack in climate misinformation. The right-wing mouthpiece presented misleading statements in almost three out of every four (72 percent) of its climate-related segments. Bucking that trend is Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, who has acknowledged anthropogenic, or human-caused, climate change, though he is one of very few voices at the network to do so.

But Fox can’t take all the blame; a third of CNN segments contained misleading statements as well. UCS offered a suggestion: “The biggest step that CNN could take to increase accuracy is to stop hosting debates about established climate science and instead focus debates on whether and how to respond to climate change through climate policy.” MSNBC was the most accurate of the three, at 8 percent.

“The public deserves climate coverage that gets the science right,” say the UCS report’s authors. “Media outlets can do more to foster a fact-based conversation about climate change and policies designed to address it, rather than contributing to a broken and inaccurate debate about the established facts of climate science.”

Network television news has also done a terrible job covering climate change. In March, Miles Grant, senior communications manager for the National Wildlife Federation, wrote about the failure of the three major networks to properly report on the extreme weather that battered the U.S. early this year:

In recent weeks, network television news has understandably focused extensively on the extreme cold and snow in the Northeast and upper Midwest. But a new FAIR [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting] study shows they’ve almost completely ignored a related and even more dangerous phenomenon out West: record-shattering winter warmth. And they’ve overwhelmingly failed to discuss what connects the two sets of strange weather phenomena: human-caused climate disruption.

The study looked at ABC, CBS and NBC transcripts from January 25 (as storm Juno approached the Northeast) through March 4. They found that while 417 network segments mentioned the extreme cold, only seven (barely over 1 percent) referenced climate change, even though scientists have already made the link. As Juno bore down on the U.S., National Center for Atmospheric Research climatologist Kevin Trenberth told the Guardian, “You can end up with heavier snows in part because of climate change.”

Follow the Money

It’s bad enough that the media is not properly covering climate change, and when they do, much of the coverage is rife with wrong information. But efforts to inform the public with peer-reviewed scientific research and stimulate legislative action on the climate issue are also being stymied by the millions of dollars spent on lobbying against President Obama’s climate efforts and supporting climate denial.

In June, the Guardian published the findings of its analysis of annual tax filings made to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service by the Donor’s Trust and Donor’s Capital Fund (DT and DCF, together known as the “Dark Money ATM” of the conservative movement). The Guardian found that these funds — which cannot be traced to individuals — directed around $125 million over three years to groups “spreading disinformation about climate science and committed to wrecking Barack Obama’s climate change plan.”

In a separate analysis, DeSmog, a website focusing on global warming misinformation campaigns, examined tax records to reveal that between 2005 and 2012, DT and DCF, both of which share an address in Virginia, received $479 million of dark money from individuals or groups that do not have to declare their donations. Moreover, a Greenpeace analysis found that between 2002 and 2013, DCF gave $16 million to the Heartland Institute, which hosts regular conferences for climate deniers and once likened people who believed in climate change science to mass murderers.

“The conservative think tanks are really the spearhead of the conservative assault on climate change,” said Riley Dunlap, a University of Oklahoma sociologist who helped establish the field of environmental sociology in the 1970s. “They write books, put out briefings and open editorials, bring in contrarian scientists. …They are an immense megaphone that amplifies very, very minority voices.”

“All these corporations that were getting bad press realized they can still fund conservative think tanks,” said Dunlap. “Exxon or BP can still fund one of these things while doing all these great things on climate change to reduce emissions.” Greenpeace revealed that, between 2005 and 2008, ExxonMobil spent $8.9 million funding the climate denial machine. But that was dwarfed by Koch Industries, which pumped $24.9 million into the effort over the same period.

Robert Brulle, a professor of sociology and environmental science at Drexel University who first exposed the complex and highly secretive matrix of activist groups and think tanks that comprise the conservative climate change counter-movement, said those funds were used to fine-tune opposition to climate-related regulations. “It is a well-oiled, complicated, cultural and political machine of the right wing of the conservative movement,” he said.

Reading Tea Leaves

While the GOP mainstream has money and media working to promote climate denial and fight climate legislation, the Tea Party has played a unique and significant role in the country’s climate polarization. “While large majorities of Democrats, Independents, and non-Tea Party Republicans say they trust scientists, only 28 percent of Tea Party Republicans trust them,” writes Hamilton, the Carsey poll researcher.

With one in four Americans saying they are Tea Party supporters, that’s nearly 80 million people distrusting science. So it should be no surprise that within the GOP, the Tea Partiers are the most fervent wavers of the climate denial flag. “Tea Party Republicans are least likely to agree with the consensus among scientists that humans are changing the climate, or that humans evolved from earlier life forms in a process that took millions of years,” Hamilton writes. A 2013 Pew poll found that Tea Partiers are the only group of Americans who think the Earth is not warming.

John M. Broder, who reports on energy and environment issues for the Washington bureau of the New York Times, argues that while Tea Partiers may arrive at climate denial from different places, they are unified in their resistance to federal oversight:

Skepticism and outright denial of global warming are among the articles of faith of the Tea Party movement. …For some, it is a matter of religious conviction; for others, it is driven by distrust of those they call the elites. And for others still, efforts to address climate change are seen as a conspiracy to impose world government and a sweeping redistribution of wealth. But all are wary of the Obama administration’s plans to regulate carbon dioxide, a ubiquitous gas, which will require the expansion of government authority into nearly every corner of the economy.

GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, (R-Tex.), a Tea Party favorite, has acknowledged that global warming is real, but is vociferous in his belief that it is not man-made. “On the global warming alarmists, anyone who actually points to the evidence that disproves their apocalyptical claims, they don’t engage in reasoned debate,” Cruz said in March. “What do they do? They scream, ‘You’re a denier.’ They brand you a heretic. Today, the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-earthers.” Cruz called for Obama’s new EPA regulations requiring existing power plants to reduce their carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030 to be “invalidated by Congress, struck down by the courts, or rescinded by the next administration.”

But how long will the Tea Party wield influence on the climate debate? Tea Partiers tend to be older than other Republicans (25 percent are 65 or older, compared with 19 percent of other GOP supporters). And since young people overwhelmingly believe that climate change is happening (only 3 percent don’t), perhaps the Tea Party’s ability to shape the climate debate will diminish over time. But by then, it may be too late to do anything about it.

GOP-Led Rift

While environmentalists have targeted climate change as a wedge issue that might influence the independent vote, the climate divide is just one part of a larger trend in the United States. An expansive 2014 Pew political polarizaton survey of 10,000 adults nationwide concluded that “Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines — and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive — than at any point in the last two decades.” This deep animosity is extremely worrisome. Since 1994, the percentage of party-affiliated Americans who have a highly negative view of the opposing party has doubled, with the majority of these fiercely partisan voters viewing the opposing party’s policies as “so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being.”

Though both parties are fomenting an increasing hatred for each other, it’s the Republicans who must bear the brunt of the blame — even as theirs is the party that more often plays the blame game and harbors more distrust. According to Pew, more conservatives (72 percent) have a “very unfavorable opinion” of Democrats, compared to 53 percent of liberals who share the same view of Republicans. In addition, conservatives are more likely to say that Democratic party policies are a threat to the nation’s well-being.

The Pew authors also note that the so-called “Obama derangement syndrome” — a condition afflicting Republicans who are so hell-bent on thwarting the president that they will even reverse long-held beliefs to do so — is a source of the intense distrust Republicans have for Democratic policies. “At least in part,” they write, “the strongly negative views Republicans have of the Democratic Party reflect their deep-seated dislike of Barack Obama.”

Some have argued that today’s polarization may simply be a return to historic norms. But considering the fact that, as the United Nations warned last year, we are rapidly running out of time to act on climate change, U.S. political gridlock is more dangerous than ever, and exists on a grander scale because the nation’s failure to act on climate directly impacts the rest of the world. In 2013, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere actually increased at the fastest rate in nearly three decades, with the U.S. contributing nearly a seventh of the total amount.

Not only is the world going in the wrong direction, America’s main political parties are going in opposite directions from each other, with no sign that agreement on the climate is in the cards, thanks in most part to GOP obstructionism. As the Pew poll discovered, compromise is essentially a liberal value: Conservatives don’t like it. Less than a third of conservative voters prefer politicians who make compromises, compared with 82 percent of liberals.

Writing in the Altantic in May of last year, Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, laid the blame of the nation’s current political dysfunction squarely in the GOP’s camp:

Republicans have become a radical insurgency — ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited policy regime, scornful of compromise, unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of their political opposition. The evidence of this asymmetry is overwhelming.

The Power of Denial

Even more alarming is the fact that the climate denial sown by the GOP machine is, to a certain extent, working. According to a recent study led by University of Bristol cognitive scientist Stephan Lewandowsky, the ceaseless public debate over whether climate change is actually happening is making some climate scientists understate their own findings, which unintentionally supports the climate deniers’ position that it is too soon to take aggressive climate action.

“In response to constant, and sometimes toxic, public challenges, scientists have over-emphasized scientific uncertainty, and have inadvertently allowed contrarian claims to affect how they themselves speak, and perhaps even think, about their own research,” writes Lewandowsky in the journal Global Environmental Change. One of the psychological mechanisms behind this, he argues, is pluralistic ignorance, a social phenomenon that occurs when “a minority opinion is given disproportionate prominence in public debate, resulting in the majority of people incorrectly assuming their opinion is marginalized.” So, while climate deniers may be in the minority, the regular coverage of climate denial by Fox News and other conservative media, and perhaps even the lack of climate change coverage by mainstream media, are contributing factors to scientists’ muted approach.

“A public discourse that asserts that the IPCC has exaggerated the threat of climate change,” Lewandoswky points out, “may cause scientists who disagree to think their views are in the minority, and they may therefore feel inhibited from speaking out in public.” Furthermore, the researchers said when offering rebuttals to their critics, scientists often do so “within a linguistic landscape created by denial and often in a manner that reinforces the contrarian claim.”

This assessment supports the UCS analysis of cable news coverage of climate change; specifically of how CNN, an ostensibly centrist network (at least in comparison to Fox), readily offers a soapbox for the climate denial wing. “Most of CNN’s misleading coverage stemmed from debates between guests who accepted established climate science and other guests who disputed it,” write the UCS report’s authors. “This format suggests that established climate science is still widely debated among scientists, which it is not, and also allows opponents of climate policy to convey inaccurate statements about climate science.”

With the media freely giving airtime to climate deniers, GOP presidential candidates feel no inhibition about sharing their particular strain of climate denial with the world. They are joined by growing ranks of Republican politicians of varying levels of anti-science denial, but who agree in their opposition of any policy to combat climate change. “You don’t have to be an outright science denier to try to prevent action on climate change,” said Brulle. “You’ve got gradation — it’s not real; it’s real but we are not sure how much humans are contributing to it; ‘I am not a scientist’ phrase as a way to avoid the issue while avoiding being labeled an outright denier. There are all sorts of strategies.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) speaking at the 2012 CPAC in Washington, DC. The GOP candidate is an aggressive climate denier who declared he would dismantle all of President Obama’s climate efforts. (image: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)

The GOP has done an excellent job at sowing enough doubt to create a political rift that threatens any U.S.-led action on climate change. Even GOP governors have lined up to defy Obama’s new emissions rules. Jim Manzi, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, offered an explanation of the GOP’s stance — and its predicament — in a recent National Affairs essay:

The Republican position?—?either avowed ignorance or conspiracy theorizing?—?is ultimately unsustainable, but some still cling to it because they believe that accepting the premise that some climate change is occurring as a result of human action means accepting the conclusions of the most rabid left-wing climate activists. They fear, at least implicitly, that the politics of climate change is just a twisted road with a known destination: supporting new carbon taxes, a cap-and-trade system, or other statist means of energy rationing, and in the process ceding yet another key economic sector to government control. Conservatives seem to be on the horns of a dilemma: They will have to either continue to ignore real scientific findings or accept higher taxes, energy rationing, and increased regulation.

The ultimate unsustainabilty of the party’s climate denialist position was alluded to more than four years earlier by a GOP renegade, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. During the last presidential election, at the Republican debate on September 7, 2012, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were united in their distrust of the science behind anthropogenic global warming. Huntsman was the lone climate hawk. He said, “When you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I’m saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can’t run from science.”

His statement echoed one of his tweets from the previous month: “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.” Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina later acknowledged that Huntsman, who had previously served as Obama’s ambassador to China, “would have been a very tough candidate.”
Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum (Republican presidential candidates who, during the September 7th presidential debate, revealed their distrust in the science behind anthropogenic global warming.) – See more at: www.justmeans.com/blogs/if-you-ha…

In his 2006 book, The Elephant in the Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life, Rutgers University sociologist Eviatar Zerubavel argued that denial is “fundamentally delusional … [it] may help keep us unaware of unpleasant things around us but it cannot actually make them go away.”

But there may be other forces at work other than those keeping unpleasantness at bay. In 2011, researchers from the University of Edinburgh and the University of California at San Diego gave ammunition to the argument that Edward Gibbons’ The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, an epic narrative of the greatest sociopolitical collapse in western civilization, presaged the fate of modern America. The study, published in the journal Nature, found that self-delusion is actually a successful survival strategy. The authors write: “The fact that overconfident populations are evolutionarily stable in a wide range of environments may help to explain why overconfidence remains prevalent today, even if it contributes to hubris, market bubbles, financial collapses, policy failures, disasters and costly wars.”

It may be a survival strategy for some time (decades or even centuries), but it’s hardly a prescription for serious long-term sustainability. As Carl Sagan said, “It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” While Republicans may not give much credence to the words of the late astronomer (he was a scientist, after all), maybe they should. At the rate humans are reproducing (9.6 billion by 2050) and consuming the Earth’s natural resources (140 billion tons of minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass per year by 2050 — three times current levels), mankind will need to find another planet to ravage.

Warning Signs, But Little Action

As the Republicans bury their heads in the sand and continue to blindy pave the road to unsustainability, climate change is poised to affect billions of people around the globe, threatening water and food supplies, development goals, public health and arable and habitable land. Indeed, many are already feeling the effects. Just ask the citizens of the soon-to-be submerged island nation of Kiribati, which has already lost several islets to rising sea levels. Or the people of the Maldives, which is on pace to lose 77 percent of its land area by 2100. Or water-stressed Californians. Or farmers in Ethiopia. As IPCC warned last year, no one on the planet will be left untouched by climate change.

Maintaining political stability amid a warming world presents a particularly difficult challenge, as people become displaced by conflict in climate hotspots. As a National Bureau of Economic Research analysis of 55 separate studies concluded, there is a meaningful connection between climate change and human violence, from domestic violence and murder to ethnic violence and even civil war. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that more than 51 million people around the globe were “forcibly displaced due to persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations.” The majority of these can be considered “climate refugees,” as they originated from regions destabilized by climate change.

In his May commencement address at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, President Obama noted this challenge, asserting that climate change ranks alongside terrorism as a primary threat to America’s future. He criticized climate deniers in Congress for putting the security of Americans at risk. “I know there are still some folks back in Washington who refuse to admit that climate change is real,” the president told graduating cadets. “Denying it, or refusing to deal with it endangers our national security. It undermines the readiness of our forces.”

In addition, a major 2009 report on managing climate change’s health effects, jointly produced by The Lancet and University College London, calls climate change the “biggest global-health threat of the 21st century.” The researchers say as rising temperatures impact farmers’ crops, half of the world’s population could face severe food shortages by the end of the century, while deadly diseases like malaria, tick-borne encephalitis and dengue fever will become increasingly widespread. The authors also highlight the idea of “intergenerational justice,” a critical yet not fully addressed social dimension of the overall climate change narrative. This idea not only challenges the intertwined notions of human and environmental rights, but also offers the various impacts of a warmer Earth as powerful examples of the wealth gap problem. “The inequity of climate change — with the rich causing most of the problem and the poor initially suffering most of the consequences — will prove to be a source of historical shame to our generation if nothing is done to address it,” they write.

And then there are the effects climate change is having on the planet’s flora, fauna and ecosystems. From melting Arctic sea ice that threatens the survival of endangered polar bears, walruses, seals and sea birds, to ocean acidification that threatens a host of marine life — including reef-building corals that not only protect coastlines from storm damage, but provide habitats for so many species — a warming world is already causing a decrease in biodiversity and species extinction.

As the U.S. is the world’s second biggest carbon emitter (after China), any hope of preventing the worst effects of climate change must include not only a strong commitment from Washington, but immediate and measurable action. What’s exceedingly frustrating is that it can be done. “We have the knowledge and we have the tools for action to try to keep temperature increases within 2°C to give our planet a chance and to give our children and grandchildren a future,” said World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “Pleading ignorance can no longer be an excuse for not acting.” He’s right of course. But try telling that to a Republican.

Reynard Loki is AlterNet’s environment editor. Follow him on Twitter @reynardloki.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 17th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Pope Francis’ Visit to the United States

This coming week, Pope Francis will visit the United States. During this momentous visit, he will address a joint session of Congress on September 24 at 10am, as well as the United Nations General Assembly on September 25 at 8:30am. In addition to visiting Washington D.C. and New York City, he will also visit Philadelphia.

The Pope’s visit is a very important event in support of the encyclical on the environment, “Praised Be: On the Care of Our Common Home” (Laudato Si’), in which Pope Francis highlights issues of “integral ecology,” namely concerns for people and the planet. There are a number of resources on the Forum site  fore.yale.edu) to provide you more information on the encyclical.

For the Pope’s schedule, visit:
 www.popefrancisvisit.com/official…

 www.usatoday.com/story/news/natio…

Many events are being organized throughout the United States in light of the Pope’s visit. For details, please see below.

We encourage you to download a free Pope Francis’ Encyclical Climate Action Kit that Interfaith Power & Light has put together in conjunction with the Catholic Climate Covenant.

You can download it here: fore.yale.edu

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 7th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Fwd: Invitation to join the SDG Symposium on ‘Evaluating the Sustainable Development Goals – New Challenges for Research, Policy and Business’ on 28 October 2015

From: Jingchao zhou of the Society for International Development (SID), Vienna, Austria.

The Institute for Managing Sustainability was originally founded by S.I.D. vice-president Uwe Schubert
>
> ———- Forwarded message ———-
> From: Institute for Managing Sustainability
> Date: Fri, Sep 4, 2015 at 10:32 AM

> Subject: Invitation to join the SDG Symposium on ‘Evaluating the Sustainable Development Goals – New Challenges for Research, Policy and Business’ on 28 October 2015 at the University of Economics and Business (Wirtschaftsuniversitaet) Institute for Managinng Sustainability.
>
>
> Invitation to join the SDG Symposium on Evaluating the Sustainable Development Goals – New Challenges for Research, Policy and Business
>

> Organised by the WU Institute for Managing Sustainability at Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU) in collaboration with the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and the European Evaluation Society (EES)
>
> Date: 28 October 2015


> Location: Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU), Welthandelsplatz 1, 1020 Vienna, Austria

> Registration: Please visit their website to register for the event and find out more about updates on the programme and speakers
>
> The WU Institute for Managing Sustainability at Vienna University of Economics and Business in collaboration with the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and the European Evaluation Society (EES) is pleased to invite you to a symposium on “Evaluating the Sustainable Development Goals – New Challenges for Research, Policy and Business”.

>
> With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations in September 2015, a new set of objectives for global sustainable development will guide the global development agenda. The SDGs provide a comprehensive approach, ensuring a high level of ambition for achieving results, involving development agencies and governments, international organisations, civil society and business.

>
> Coinciding with 2015 as the International Year of Evaluation and the European Year of Development the symposium aims to be a forum for discussion on the implications of the SDGs for the impact evaluation of policies, programmes and projects across sectors.
>
> The symposium will address the central question of how the SDGs may inform research and practice in evaluation. We cordially invite you to join the symposium and

>
> Find out more about the contribution of evaluation, research and practice to the effective implementation and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals
> Discuss the implications of the new international development agenda on evaluation research and practice across sectors (policy, civil society, business, academia)
> Engage in a dialogue with key actors and experts from research, business, policy, international organizations and civil society
>
> Watch the conference website for updates on the programme, speakers and registration.

>
>
> André Martinuzzi
> Institute for Managing Sustainability, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business,
> email:  andre.martinuzzi at wu.ac.at
>
> Patricia Schindler
> Institute for Managing Sustainability, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business,
> email:  patricia.schindler at wu.ac.at
>
> Norma Schönherr
> Institute for Managing Sustainability, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business,
> email:  norma.schoenherr at wu.ac.at
>
>
> This newsflash is being published by
>
> Institute for Managing Sustainability
> Vienna University of Economics and Business
> Welthandelsplatz 1, A-1020 Vienna, Austria
>
> phone: +43-1-31336-4698
> fax: +43-1-31336-90-4698
> www: ” title=”http://www.sustainability.eu” target=”_blank”>, Vienna

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